As musicians, we rely on our ears for all kinds of things. They keep us in tune, they make sure our instruments sound the way we want, and they allow us to gain inspiration from all kinds of places. Basically, without them we'd struggle to do the thing we love so much. So it makes sense to give them a bit of help – here's our pick of the best earplugs for musicians.
Naturally, your hearing changes over the course of your life, particularly if you're a guitar player, drummer, DJ or studio musician. But with an estimated one in every eight people in the United States - of all ages - suffering from some form of hearing loss, it's crucial that musicians in particular take steps to protect their ears.
Thankfully, the technology around protective earplugs has improved immensely, so they're no longer a necessary evil. Gone are those oversized foam products we used to see, with today’s versions decidedly more low-profile with much cleverer tech lurking inside.
Luckily for us, live music and band practices are finally back on the cards after months of staying at home, so now's a better time than any to put some thought and investment into your hearing.
This guide will explain more, along with outlining some of the best earplugs for musicians available today.
We've included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more, click the 'buying advice' tab above. If you'd rather get straight to the products, keep scrolling.
- Protect your ears on stage with the best in-ear monitors
- These are the best studio headphones for music making
Best earplugs for musicians: Our top picks
While many brands of earplugs seem to promise the same (or similar) levels of noise reduction, and most use the same (or similar) materials to produce their buds, we did notice a couple of important differences between the plugs we tested.
A couple of sets stood out for us in particular. The Earasers, while not the strongest at attenuation, were so small and discreet that the overall experience of wearing them was positive. Then there’s the Earos One, which we found offered the best overall sound reproduction. Neither end of the frequency spectrum was overly exaggerated, and both pairs were comfortable enough to wear for long playing sessions.
Best earplugs for musicians: Product guide
The Earasers earplugs are one of a few entries on this list which are geared specifically towards musicians. This is on account of the filters that ensure a flat frequency response akin to using studio monitors. The benefit of this is that every frequency you're supposed to hear is accurately represented through the earbuds, yet overall noise volume is also reduced accordingly.
We were a bit reluctant to pull too hard on the antenna-looking part of the bud, but once we'd got to grips with them we found these to be among the best we'd tried.
Sure, there are earbuds for all kinds of activity: concerts, construction sites, shooting, sleeping. The Eearos One, however, are one of the best options for musicians specifically. Boasting input from a former MIT Acoustics Lab director, these buds have some credibility behind their classy styling.
Their unique soundbore technology delivers superb noise reduction, while retaining clarity and a wide frequency response.
The Vibes High Fidelity earplugs focus on attenuating - that means reducing - incoming volumes, but use special filters in order to fine-tune certain frequencies. This, they say, reduces overall noise but doesn't leave the sound muffled. Anyone who's used foam earplugs will attest to the thick, muffled sound you get. Not so with these.
We also liked the construction – once in your ear, the Vibes are extremely low profile thanks to their clear plastic housing, so you can wear them without raising attention.
If you’re new to the world of earplugs, or one of those people who lose things often, you might not want to spend much on a pair of earplugs - and that’s fair enough. This offering from Fender reduces volume by a whopping 27dB, and for less than a tenner? We can’t complain an awful lot. On the flipside, if your go-to is a swanky pair of custom-moulded plugs, a spare pair (or two) of these Fender earplugs are a great gigbag/stickbag/pocket companion for those gigging emergencies.
They come in one size which Fender insists fits all (or very nearly), and are made from a simple, comfortable black silicone. Just make sure you keep them safe, as they’re bound to disappear forever in a dimly-lit venue.
Big in the world of in-ear monitoring, customised fittings aren't always as practical for lower-cost applications like earplugs. Or so we thought. Step forward Decibullz, which have been created to cover a multitude of noisy situations. The most interesting part of these buds is the customisable molded nature of them.
Specifically, the three-flange tips come attached to a thermoplastic section which, after heating in warm water, becomes pliable and can be molded to fit your exact ear shape. Ideal for comfort, and with a 31db protection rating, they'll keep your ears snug and secure.
Where most pairs of earplugs are pretty plain, the Loop earplugs offer a stylish yet functional option for those who like to make a bit more of a statement with their hearing protection.
With noise reduction of 20dB, they’ll tame the most harmful of volumes to something a little more manageable, and with the option of foam or silicone tips, they’ll fit virtually anyone’s ears. The trademark loop is also ideal for getting them in and out, although that does make it very obvious that you’re wearing them. But there’s nothing cool about going deaf, so we wouldn’t worry too much.
If you're on the fence about earplugs, we understand. Which is why we can highly recommend the EarDial HiFi set; once these buds are in, they are extremely low profile and blend in with the colour of your skin. You get all the benefits of noise reduction and accurate filtering, without looking like you've taken any action at all.
A nice touch comes with the accompanying iOS app, which alerts you to increased noise levels in your environment.
If the thought of using earplugs during band practice or live performance is alien to you, it may be advisable to check out a cost-effective set. Same as when you learn an instrument you don't go straight to a Gibson Les Paul, it's worth trying out a few sets to learn what you do and don't like.
The Hearprotek earplugs are inexpensive, and come in an aluminium case so you can stash them on your belt loop or pack them into a gigbag. They're not particularly suited to extended use, but for waiting through the support bands before you go on stage, they're perfectly decent.
As one of the better-known brands in the drumming world (they specialise in quality drumsticks and accessories), Vic Firth would inevitably want to ensure the hearing safety of its users. These cheap and cheerful earplugs offer a fairly standard 20db of sound reduction, yet on test we found these were ideal when used behind the drum kit.
The included heavy-duty neck cord is a nice touch, too, meaning you can take them out in between sessions and not worry about losing them.
People use earplugs for all kinds of situations. From musical applications to sporting, there are plenty of circumstances where things can get very, very loud. And while we've covered musician-specific earplugs elsewhere in this list, there is definitely space for a solid all-rounder.
The Eargasm High Fidelity range offers up to 21db of noise reduction, yet ensures that a quality sound reaches your ear thanks to attenuation filters that filter - rather than block - the sound. The included aluminium case makes them easy to take anywhere, too.
Best earplugs for musicians: Buying advice
To the uninitiated, the idea of wedging something into your ears that limits what you’re hearing sounds mad at first. Why would you actively choose to spoil the quality of the music you’re listening to or playing? In music creation, we're always looking for the tiny margins where we can improve a sound, song or arrangement, so how will you know what things sound like if you can't hear accurately?
Nowadays, that is not a thing we should be concerned about. That's because there are plenty of options on the market that offer noise reduction but not at the expense of the sound you’re hearing. This means you can use earplugs, and they will only reduce overall volumes, not cut out certain frequencies or overload others. In turn, your music won't be reduced to a muffle, but you will instead be able to play and enjoy music for longer without damaging your ears.
Another bonus is that none of the earplugs for musicians in this list are expensive, relatively speaking. So if you try one set and they don't work, you're not tied to them forever. Just try a new pair. That said, the benefits of trying sets from the higher end of the scale do bring added benefits like higher noise reduction ratings (NRRs) and - importantly - comfort for extended sessions. It's all very well reducing decibel levels to a satisfactory range, but then your ears ache because you have cheap buds in them. Comfort and accurate noise should be your two highest priorities here. In our opinion, try a few pairs out. Try some foam ones, silicone ones, fitted ones, earbuds. It’s all a learning curve, and a very personal one at that - but as long as your hearing is protected, that’s all that matters.