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Updated Sep 27, 2022 12:56 PM

Earplugs for concerts are the MVPs of personal accessories: They’re easy to use, comfortable, and, most importantly, protect your hearing while letting you enjoy shows in full, heart-pounding fidelity. If you spend time at concerts, work or play in noisy settings, or just want to block out the outside world and get a little peace and quiet, earplugs are essential. It’s all about finding the best earplugs for concerts for you.

When it comes to enjoying music at full volume, we’re biased by what audiologists call the “annoyance factor.” Your favorite song, cranked up in your earbuds, never really feels overly loud but the pounding jackhammer across the street is unbearably noisy—when often, they’re equally dangerous.

People adapt psychologically to loud sounds they like—like music—and assume that if sound doesn’t hurt, it’s not hurting them. But, as anyone who’s woken up after a show with ringing ears knows, nothing could be farther from the truth. Fortunately, hearing protection is a simple, affordable solution, as we’ll show you in our roundup of 2022’s best earplugs for concerts.

Why you should already be wearing earplugs

Real talk: Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent. It sneaks up on you in a slow, painless progression; by the time you recognize that there’s a problem, it’s usually too late to do anything about it. Making bad decisions now can come back to haunt you decades down the line: Just ask Dave Grohl, Jucifer (the underground duo whose battle with hearing loss inspired the film The Sound of Metal), or the countless artists who have gone public about their severe hearing damage caused by spending their whole careers turning things to 11.

Noise-induced hearing damage manifests in all sorts of insidious ways, from muffled highs and frequency dropouts to tinnitus, a continual ringing or buzzing in the ears. But the great news is, this kind of hearing loss is almost always preventable. All you need is basic ear protection.

Protecting your ears is all about exposure

Sound-induced hearing damage happens as a result of sudden acoustic trauma (like an explosion) or through chronic exposure to high sound levels. The general rule is, the louder the sounds and the longer the length of exposure, the greater the risk of hearing loss. For example, eight hours of exposure to sound levels of 85 decibels (equivalent to heavy street noise) is considered safe according to decibel exposure time guidelines, but at 100 dB—the level of a typical rock concert—safe exposure is limited to 15 minutes. (Free sound-metering apps such as Decibel X can measure surrounding noise and help keep your exposure in check.)

How we chose the best earplugs for concerts

PopSci’s resident audiophiles and musicians are lifelong fans of hearing protection; we compared our own experiences using earplugs over the years, including many of the products here. It’s difficult to measure the actual attenuation level offered by earplugs without specialized equipment so, for that, we relied on provided specs. But we were able to evaluate fit and comfort across a broad range of ears and in a range of scenarios, and we put features like apps through the paces wherever possible. Because hearing loss is a medical condition, we consulted audiologists who are also musicians to get their advice on navigating the unique hazards of the concert environment.

Things to consider before buying the best earplugs for concerts

The best earplugs for concerts allow you to comfortably listen to music without compromising your hearing—or your experience. Then, it’s about matching features to your lifestyle.

What will you be using earplugs for?

There’s a difference between blocking sound you don’t want to hear and attenuating sound you do want to hear. If you’re in a factory or at a gun range and want to block out a continuous industrial din or potentially hazardous sudden noises, simple foam earplugs or earmuff protectors offer the most robust protection. For sleeping, it’s all about extended comfort. Simple, soft foam or silicone earplugs are ideal and purpose-designed sleep models, like Loop Quiet, are so comfy you might even forget you’re wearing them. But if you want to safely enjoy music without feeling like there’s cement in your ears, your best option is to invest in a pair of high-quality, flat-response earplugs, which lower sound evenly across the frequency spectrum for a natural, high-fidelity sonic signature.

Types of earplugs

Earplugs run the gamut from cheap, no-frills off-the-shelf earbuds to balanced-response earplugs to electronic systems with adjustable attenuation to professional custom-fit models, which require a visit to an audiologist. Here, we’re focusing on universal, off-the-shelf models.

Expandable foam earplugs are made of pliant material designed to conform to the shape of the ear canal. They’re inserted by first rolling them into compressed cylinders, then placing in the ear canal, where they expand to form a seal. Foam earplugs are the cheapest option and, because they cannot be washed, are considered disposable.

Pre-molded earplugs, constructed from silicone, rubber, or plastic, retain their size and shape when inserted into the ear canal. Because they don’t expand, they’re available in various sizes and often include a range of custom tips to ensure a perfect fit. Pre-molded earplugs can be cleaned and reused.

Earmuffs completely cover the outer ear and are often available with electronic components that suppress sudden noises or let users communicate. If you hate sticking things inside your ear canal and you don’t mind a somewhat bulky profile, earmuff protection might be for you.

Earplug tech innovations

When it comes to off-the-shelf, universal earplugs, technology advancements lean toward expanded feature sets, including noise cancellation, Bluetooth functionality, and companion apps. Some earplugs, such as Loop Experience Pro, feature acoustic innovations, such as resonant chambers, that promise to improve sound quality. Earmuff manufacturers are developing high-tech materials that reduce weight and bulk yet still effectively block noise. These improvements add up to improved sound and a better experience, which is great incentive to wear your earplugs more. And, aesthetic improvements (see: Loop Experience Pro’s jewelry-inspired look) mean your kids might wear them longer, too.

Just like cameras, the best earplugs are the ones you actually have on you when you need them. So, no matter which models you prefer, it can’t hurt to pick up a huge vat of inexpensive, disposables such as Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, which are effective and ridiculously cheap at $8.99 for a tub of 50. (Left yours at home? Some cities, such as San Francisco and Minneapolis, require large venues to make free earplugs available to concertgoers.)

The best earplugs for concerts: Reviews & Recommendations

At the risk of sounding like your meddling aunt, nobody can protect your hearing but you. Start your journey to safer, more enjoyable concert experiences now with our guide to the best earplugs.

Best overall: Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs

Eargasm

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Why it made the cut: These affordable silicone earplugs feel great in your ears and offer balanced attenuation, for a more natural sound profile usually only available in expensive models.

Specs 

  • Attenuation: 21 dB
  • Material: Silicone
  • Customizable fit: Yes
  • Storage case: Waterproof aluminum

Pros

  • Balanced sonic attenuation
  • Durable build quality
  • Two shell options for fine-tuning fit

Cons

  • Blue shell visibly protrudes from ear canal

Many earplugs, including standard-issue disposable foam models, do an excellent job attenuating noise but end up blocking a lot more highs than lows, leading to that dull, muffled sound that makes you want to yank them out of your ears. Perennial crowd favorite Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs incorporate filters that even out attenuation—it’s like turning down the overall volume knob, not just the treble. Eargasm’s three-tiered, flanged, conical design makes it easy to ensure a seal in your ear canal, which is critical for effective protection. And, the package includes two shells, letting you fine-tune the perfect fit. The included waterproof aluminum case attaches to a keyring for portability. Also available in a Smaller Ears model, as well as a Slide model that offers adjustable attenuation—a feature usually only seen in high-end models.

For a lower-priced option, consider Mack’s Hear Plugs flanged silicone earplugs, which preserve clear, natural sound across the frequency spectrum, using an open-air membrane filter system.

Best aesthetic: Loop Experience Pro

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: These wildly popular models offer adjustable attenuation—and are so cool looking that you can talk your teenager into wearing them.

Specs

  • Attenuation: 18 or 23 dB
  • Material: Silicone and foam
  • Customizable fit: Yes
  • Storage case: Hard hinged plastic

Pros

  • Removable filters increase attenuation level
  • Seven tip options for a perfect fit
  • Jewelry-inspired style

Cons

  • Case doesn’t include a keychain attachment

Not many earplugs double as fashion accessories. Loop Experience Pro breaks the mold, so to speak, providing robust, high-fidelity hearing protection in sleek, jewelry-inspired enclosures that look way more stylish than sticking orange wads of foam in your ears. Obviously, looks have nothing to do with hearing protection, but we’re fans of anything that ups earplugs’ cool factor if it’ll inspire you (or your kids) to wear them.  

Loop Experience Pro earplugs attenuate sound somewhat evenly across the frequency spectrum; two removable Loop Mute silicon filters let you tailor attenuation (-18 dB or -23 dB) to your surroundings and preferences, and resonant acoustic chambers inside their eponymous “loops” help optimize sound quality.

The Loop Experience Pro package includes four silicone ear tips, three foam ear tips, two sets of Loop Mute filters, and a plastic carry case. Models are available in a variety of colors and metallic finishes (such as silver, shown above) and can be washed with soap and water. A Quiet version, without adjustable filters and set at -27 dB (shown in red above), is just $20. If flash isn’t your thing, check out fully transparent Eardial earplugs, which virtually disappear inside your ears.

Best for musicians: Minuendo

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: Dial in the perfect sound attenuation level—and the perfect fit—with these highly customizable passive earplugs.

Specs

  • Attenuation: 7–25 dB
  • Material: Silicone
  • Customizable fit: Yes
  • Storage case: Hard plastic

Pros

  • Stepless adjustable sound attenuation
  • Flat attenuation for clear, natural sound
  • Eleven tip sets cover just about any ear size

Cons

  • Stepless level control is easy to incorrectly set

Designed and manufactured in Norway, Minuendo silicone earplugs are touted as the first passive (non-electronic) earplugs that offer “stepless” sound attenuation. (As someone who can’t live without her active adjustable earplugs, the “battery drain” struggle is real.)

Unlike many earplugs in this class that include switches or removable filters that increase or decrease volume attenuation in specific increments, Minuendo earplugs offer seamless, nuanced adjustment that slides the membrane from “open” (-7 dB) to “closed” ( -25 dB) and anywhere in between.

Minuendo’s low-profile black design features an innovative magnetic locking feature that lets you clasp the earplugs logo-to-logo while leashed around your neck so that you can worry less about losing them. Eleven sets of tips including foam, silicone, and flange designs, fit just about any ear out there. Wipe clean with water or alcohol.

Looking for a more affordable solution? Check out Earos One High Fidelity Acoustic Filters ($40); developed by audiologists and engineers from MIT’s Acoustics Lab, these flat-response earplugs are modeled after the sound curve of your ear to provide optimal sonic clarity and hearing protection.

Best electronic: Elgin Rebel

Why it made the cut: These multitasking wonders let you listen to music, take calls, command your smart assistant, and light up the room—all while protecting your ears.

Specs

  • Attenuation: 25 dB
  • Material: Industrial-grade polymer
  • Customizable fit: Yes
  • Storage case: Industrial-grade polymer

Pros

  • Multipurpose earbuds let you listen to music and make calls
  • Bluetooth 5.1 functionality
  • Case features a built-in flashlight

Cons

  • You might be paying for features you don’t need

Elgin Rebel True Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds are ideal for anyone looking for quality earbuds with sound attenuation and Bluetooth noise cancellation. These active earplugs combine Elgin’s advanced earplug design with earphone technology for immersive audio with 25 dB reduction in external sound. But that’s just the beginning.

A built-in noise-isolating mic lets you make clear, uninterrupted phone calls. Rebel is compatible with Siri and Google Assistant, allowing you to control playback and volume with your voice. Battery life is impressive, with 12+ hours of continuous audio playback on a single charge. Weatherproof enclosures have an IP65 rating, which means they are resistant to sweat, dust, and dirt damage.

Earbuds and case are constructed with industrial-grade, impact-resistant polymer. This all-in package includes six pairs of foam and silicone tips and a rugged polymer storage case that provides three additional battery charges—and in a first for earplugs, includes an integrated LED flashlight.

If you’re looking for rugged earplugs that also raise the level of sounds around you during quieter moments (in noisy work environments, or while hunting, for example), Caldwell E-Max Shadows Pro plugs provide even greater noise suppression while amplifying ambient sounds.

Best budget: Etymotic ER20XS

Etymotic Research

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Why it made the cut: From trusted audiology experts, these simple silicone models offer balanced sound attenuation at an entry-level price.

Specs

  • Attenuation: 20 dB
  • Material: Silicone
  • Customizable fit: No
  • Storage case: Plastic

Pros

  • Reduce sound evenly across spectrum
  • Backed by decades of audiology research
  • Low-profile, stemless design

Cons

  • No extra eartips

With deep roots in acoustic and hearing aid research and more than 100 patents, Etymotic has been innovating earphones and earplugs for 40 years. I haven’t left the house without the company’s pro electronic earplugs in a decade—but if $300 sounds like a crazy amount of money to spend on hearing protection, Etymotic’s $20 ER20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs might be for you.

These flanged silicone earplugs reduce sound evenly across the hearing spectrum, which makes them great for enjoying concerts in balanced, natural sound. The ER20XS’ low-profile, stemless design fits snugly in the outer ear without protruding, for a discreet look and comfort under headgear. These silicone earplugs are reusable but may lose elasticity with repeated use, so Etymotic recommends replacing the eartips every three to six months. Standard and Large package options each include a neck cord and carrying case that easily attaches to a keychain; a Universal Fit version ($25) includes extra foam and silicone tips.

FAQs

Q: Are there any earplugs that block all noise?   

Unfortunately, there aren’t any earplugs that block all noise. Sound waves are vibrations and some vibrations—particularly low-frequency sounds—reach the inner ear through bone conduction. Sounds can travel through skull bones, your mouth, even upward through your body from your hands and feet. Blocking your ears with earplugs will attenuate a large proportion of sound; many foam earplugs block out as much as 33 decibels, which should be enough protection to emerge from even the loudest concert unscathed.

Q: Are silicone earplugs better than foam?

Silicone earplugs are better than foam for some things, but not everything. Foam earplugs are the most popular earplugs: They’re economical and generally offer the most robust sound attenuation but they need to be inserted correctly, deep within the ear canal. Foam earplugs are also prone to collecting bacteria with re-use and should be considered disposable. Silicone earplugs don’t need to be inserted as far into the ear canal, which makes them easier to wear for some. Because silicone earplugs can be washed, for many, they can be a more economic (and sustainable) choice. And, they’re waterproof, which makes them ideal for swimmers.

Q: How much noise reduction do I need for a concert?  

The amount of noise reduction you need for a concert depends on the loudness of the concert and length of time you will spend there. Every concert is different but the average sound level at a large rock concert is about 100 decibels; some indoor shows can climb to 120 dB and beyond. Protection comes down to simple math: Sounds above 85 dB can damage your hearing after eight hours, while sounds at 100 dB can cause damage after just 15 minutes.  if you’re at an all-day festival, look for earplugs that attenuate sound 20–25 dB. If your exposure is shorter, you can get away with less attenuation. If you love getting down front in the action, go for more attenuation.

                           

Final thoughts about the best earplugs for concerts

As musicians and music lovers, we know there’s nothing better than being front and center at your favorite concert, getting lost in the song, feeling every note in your bones. Ultimately, though, loud is loud, and every time you expose your ears to high volume levels, you’re putting your hearing at risk.

Luckily, today’s high-fidelity earplugs for concerts let you experience the full spectrum of sound while protecting your hearing: Highs are clear, lows are full, and the overall presentation is rich and detailed, just like without earplugs. All while preserving your precious hearing. Save your ears now; your future self will thank you.

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