For musicians, there is nothing more precious than the sense of hearing. However, for those who spend endless hours exposed to loud music onstage or in band practice, the risk of developing hearing loss or tinnitus is high.
According to the NIDCD, or the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, nearly 24% of adults and 17% of teens have some form of noise-induced hearing loss (Noise-Induced).
The best way to avoid a premature loss of hearing, apart from abstaining from loud music altogether, is to invest in a high-quality pair of earplugs and commit to wearing them during loud performances and practices.
Nowadays, there are several earplugs designed to be used by musicians. These plugs are a far cry from the traditional, sound-muffling foam plugs you may have worn as an adolescent.
In fact, many modern earplugs incorporate dynamic sound filters that allow the user to dial down the volume around them while maintaining the clarity of the sound they hear. They also feature incredible designs that promote the earplugs ability to stay put for long periods of time.
Today’s earplugs are far more dynamic than your father’s oversized earmuffs or those flimsy foam cylinders your mother insisted you wear to your first concert. Modern plugs incorporate impressive audio technology to assure the user experiences a reduction in noise while maintaining the highest possible quality of sound.
To weed out the weak, we took a look at the top consumer-rated products and asked our musician and festival-goer friends what they thought. As a result, we’ve been able to develop an honest, self-tested product lineup.
Continue reading for information on how to choose the best earplugs for your onstage hearing protection needs and to explore our extensive list of recommended products.
Top Pick: EarPeace Eargasm High Fidelity
Compared to similar products, these are more durable and produces a more precise sound, and even includes an extra earplug, all at an affordable price.
How to Choose Your Earplugs
When choosing earplugs to wear onstage, you’ll want to consider the following three categories: sound quality, comfort, and durability.
Many of the companies that sell earplugs throw around the term “high fidelity.” This means that the sound you hear through the earplugs is as genuine and close the original sound as possible. According to Dictionary.com, high fidelity audio accurately reproduces the full range of audio frequencies.
Many companies use something called attenuation filters to accurately transmit the sound while also lowering the volume. Each filter also serves the purpose of reducing the volume of the sound. Most earplugs have an NRR or Noise Reduction Rating.
This rating gives consumers a basic idea of an earplug’s strength. Depending on your hearing ability and desires, you may prefer a medium or high strength earplug.
You should expect your earplugs to be soft, pliable, and well-fitted. One example of a design that meets this qualification is a set of silicone triple flange earplugs. The three flanges offer multiple points of connection within the canal. This secures the plug in place and prevents it from sliding out prematurely.
The silicone, which is often medical or food grade, is soft, hygienic, and hypoallergenic. Many triple flange plugs feature plastic removal tabs that enable users to remove the tight-fitting devices from the ear.
Since earplugs are inserted into the body, it is important to consider the quality and content of the materials used to create them. Inferior plastics can irritate skin and leach harmful chemicals into the body. What’s worse, broken earplugs can become lodged in the ear and require medical intervention.
The size of the ear varies from person to person. Some triple flanges may extend too far down the ear canal. If you suspect your ear is smaller or larger than average, stick with a plug that comes in a variety of sizes. Otherwise, options such as the re-moldable Decibullz earplug may be the best choice for you.
No matter what product you choose, be sure the one you choose incorporates medical-grade silicone. This product is free from harmful additives and is soft on the sensitive skin that lines your ears.
Ear protection designed for musicians incorporates specialized technology that drives up the price of these tiny items. Assure yourself that the plugs you choose are made to last.
Medical-grade silicone can stand up to body heat and sweat, protecting both the user and the product. Opt for a product that can be washed and worn repeatedly.
When searching for a product, find one that offers backup plugs and comes with a protective case of some sort. Proper storage and maintenance can help promote the longevity of your hearing protection device.
After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.
|sound is as clear as the original, but at a safer volume|
|once set, the mold holds its shape perfectly to prevent the mechanism from coming loose|
|a resounding level of protection|
|colorful filters, clear silicone tips, and a twist-top stainless steel tubular container|
|protection of up to 20 decibels with an NRR of 12 decibels|
|kit includes a total of 6 earplugs and two cases.|
|interchangeable, color-coded filters offer two unique levels of noise reduction|
|excellent at canceling out overpowering sounds while maintaining a sense of clarity|
|medical grade silicone, spunky lime green carabiner case and handy neck cord|
|if you forget your main pair at a previous gig, these can be true lifesavers|
|Each pair offers a different level of noise reduction, both without fully canceling out sound|
Our Top Pick: EarPeace Eargasm High Fidelity
After searching through our many hearing protection options, we were excited to finally discover Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs. The countless five-star user reviews told us that consumers were serious about this product and, after giving these a try, we’re diehards too.
When EarPeace says “high fidelity” they mean it. The sound transmitted through these plugs is clear as the original, yet it is at a safer volume. A mere $22 investment will make these yours and you won’t regret it.
The plugs feature commonly seen technologies, such as triple flanges, medical grade silicone, and high fidelity filters. However, compared to similar products, EarPeace is more durable and produces a more precise sound.
The perks don’t stop there. The set includes a total of three earplugs and six filters. While it may seem silly, the third plug gives users of the opportunity to continue using their earplug set should one become unrecoverable.
While the triple flanges do wonders to keep the plugs in your ears, the reality is that, in the right conditions, plugs do fall out. The second set of attenuation filters gives users a choice between high and medium noise reduction. This gives the plugs a unique advantage when used in a variety of environments.
The sound quality of EarPeace plugs would have probably been enough to make these a favorite of ours, but the company didn’t stop there. The plugs are extremely discreet considering they come in a variety of three different skin shades.
If you are someone who doesn’t want to incorporate something protruding from your ear into your look, these may be best for you!
To top it all off, they come with a handy and hygienic stainless steel case. This conveniently hooks onto a gig case or backpack to assure you’ve got your plugs with you where ever you need them.
Runner Up: Decibullz Custom Molding Earplugs
Our runner-up plugs are Decibullz Custom Molding Earplugs. These plugs are a horse of a different color. The plugs are made of three parts: an exterior attenuation filter, a middle re-moldable earpiece, and an interior triple flange.
Together, these pieces generate an impressive 31 dB NRR. For around $36, we don’t think you can go wrong with Decibullz.
The feature we love most is the re-moldable earpiece. This tiny piece of plastic can be heated and reheated in boiling water, cooled, and then placed in your ear to create a custom fit, sound-blocking earplug.
Once set, the mold holds its shape perfectly and truly prevents the mechanism from falling out or coming loose. You certainly don’t need to be fiddling with your ears when in the middle of a performance. Luckily, Decibullz won’t put you in that position!
The market is flooded with triple flange earplugs, making these custom plugs a unique variety. That being said, they are on the pricey side. If you’re looking for a bargain, you’re better off with a triple flange plug in the $10-$15 range.
Other Products to Consider:
Another great product is the Etymotic High Fidelity Universal Ear Protection Kit. This sells for around the same price as Decibullz and offers a resounding level of protection.
The kit features all the bells and whistles, with both foam ear tips, silicone standard and large sized triple flange ear tips, a plastic tab for easy removal, an optional neck cord, and an adorable carrying case.
Users who aren’t sure the size of their ear and are looking to purchase earplugs online can relax with their purchase of Etymotic plugs. If you aren’t sure about the level of comfort that you are going to get from traditional silicone plugs, Etymotic offers a unique package that also includes a pair of interchangeable foam tips.
Musicians agree that the quality of sound is ideal, but comfort and fit truly depend on the user. In that category, this product gives you the most versatility.
L&L’s plugs are yet another amazing product that will only set you back around $18. Aesthetically, this plug set is one of our favorites.
It features colorful filters, clear silicone tips, and a twist-top stainless steel tubular container. The set includes two pairs, with 19 and 29-decibel noise reduction ratings.
Hearos Earplugs High Fidelity Series are some the most reasonably priced specialty earplugs on the market. They are just over $13 and feature the same high-quality sound technology as many of their competitors.
Hearos asserts that the plugs offer protection of up to 20 decibels with an NRR of 12 decibels. A convenient “pop” case is included with these plugs. While we found the plastic “pop” case to be lackluster compared to the stainless steel and leather alternatives, the plugs were almost indistinguishable from L&L’s.
What’s more, we wish that Hearos had given a better indication of how large these plugs were. For individuals with small ears, these plugs would likely be rough and uncomfortable.
In such cases, some users recommend snipping off the third flange to create a more precise fit. While we appreciate the DIY solution, we’d prefer our earplugs to require little to no intervention.
Just Pure is another brand that has developed a generous earplug kit for under $20. The kit includes a total of 6 earplugs and two cases. Since one of our biggest fears is misplacing one of the plugs, we found the extra supplies to be extremely refreshing.
These aren’t the best plugs on the market. If you are looking for inexpensive hearing protection for the occasional concert, this kit is ideal.
The plugs in this kit do a good job of bringing the volume down to a reasonable level while maintaining most of the original sound. However, they aren’t able to balance the reduction for both high and low frequencies.
Rave High Fidelity Earplugs sell for around $15, which we believe is a reasonable investment considering what you get. The interchangeable, color-coded filters offer two unique levels of noise reduction.
These filters can be used with either the long stem or short stem plugs provided in the kit. We felt that the short stem plugs were more comfortable, but who doesn’t love to have options at their disposal!
When it came to sound quality, we felt these did an average job of blocking out high decibels. Unfortunately, they aren’t one-size-fits-all, and slippage led to sizable air gaps which allowed a lot of sound to slip by. On the flip side, they come with the most adorable little leather satchel for storage.
Ear Defense plugs are specifically designed for instrumentalists and singers. They do an excellent job of canceling out overpowering sounds while maintaining a sense of clarity.
For example, you can hear your bandmate’s verbal cue, but no longer face irritating episodes of tinnitus due to your drummer’s heavy hitting.
Unfortunately, they seem to be made of an inferior silicone and are prone to breakage. If you care for these, they will last. Just remember, at nearly $24 a set, you are making a serious investment.
At $18, the SoundTight Earplugs are a reasonable buy. After all, they come with a spunky lime green carabiner case, a handy neck cord, and feature medical grade silicone. However, many users complained that they weren’t the best fit.
After reviewing countless earplugs, we found that finding a well-fitting plug is key to noise reduction. An airtight seal prevents noise from entering the ear canal and allows the filter to make it more tolerable and safer for the wearer.
Since many customers opt to purchase their plugs online, they don’t get the opportunity to try them on for size. If you are looking to purchase yours online, make sure the seller is open to fully refund your return.
We admit these plugs are not fantastic. Without an attenuation filter, these globs of beige colored foam can only block out and muffle sound. That being said, they are extremely inexpensive and disposable.
If you are in the music industry and are serious about protecting your hearing, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a jar of these on hand. Whether you lose one plug or forget your main pair at a previous gig, these can be true lifesavers.
LiveMus!c HearSafe Ear Plugs, with Silicone Triple Flange and Noise-Cancelling come in a convenient two pack. Each pair offers a different level of noise reduction, though both tone down the volume without fully canceling it out.
When we tested them out, we weren’t able to audibly distinguish a difference between the two. However, they both worked well in concert environments.
While some consumers felt that the product was built from inferior materials, the silicone was durable and stayed put for long periods of time. The neck cord was flimsy but worked fine.
- High Fidelity. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/high-fidelity
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. (n.d.). Retrieved February 24, 2017, from