Last updated: November 14, 2017
Autism is a daily part of life for 2.8 million people in the UK, including those adults and children on the spectrum (estimated to be 700,000 people) and their families supporting them.
Autism can have a significant impact on every-day life factors that many of us take for granted, and one of these is the processing of sensory information.
Many people on the Autism spectrum can struggle with sensory ‘overload’, when the sights and sounds of modern life can become too much to process. For those that are over-sensitive to noise, sounds can become magnified and events such as concerts, social gatherings and busy public areas can result in reduced concentration, stress and anxiety.
Unfortunately, these loud environments are now a common part of modern life, and therefore one solution to help both adults and children in these potentially distressing stations is the use of noise-cancelling ear muffs.
With a range of products on the market, knowing which to purchase can be a difficult decision. To help, we’ve researched and picked out three pairs of great ear defenders for autistic adults and children to help inform your decision.
Mpow Ear Defenders – a good choice for autistic adults
With a plain headphone-style design, these ear defenders are a good choice for adults looking for something discrete.
If you’re an adult who’d like a discrete pair of ear defenders that look just like headphones, the Mpow Ear Defenders could be a good choice. With a simple black design, people will just assume you’re wearing wireless headphones, which is ideal if you feel self-conscious wearing ear defenders in public.
These ear defenders have an SNR of 34 dB, which is relatively high meaning that they do a very good job at reducing the volume of loud noises. They’re certified by ANSI S3.19 and CE EN521 safety standards, which means they’ve been tested and proven to offer real results in blocking out sound.
The Mpow Ear Defenders weigh 381 grams, which makes them heavier than the children’s ear defenders reviewed below but still fairly light for carrying around when you’re out of the house. They collapse when you’re not using them so they don’t take up much space. They also feel quite durable so they should be able to withstand being carried around in a bag when you’re travelling.
These ear defenders are adjustable and most people find they offer a comfy fit, though a few people find them too tight.
The Mpow Ear Defenders are very affordable, and offer a straightforward and cheap solution to preventing sensory overload.
Edz Kidz Ear Defenders – a good choice for autistic children
A lightweight and fun pair of ear defenders that can fit both kids and adults.
|£10.95||26dB||190 Grams||Children 6 months and over|
Edz Kidz Ear Defenders are a popular choice for protecting children’s hearing, and it’s easy to see why. The defenders come in a range of colours, with additional ‘capz’ that can be purchased in a vast range of colours, patterns and designs.
While aimed at children, the defenders are fully adjustable, making them ideal for any age from 6 months up, and are fitted with a padded headband making them comfortable for prolonged periods of use.
The defenders are also very lightweight at just 190 grams, and are also foldable. This makes them easy to carry and store when out and about, ensuring they are always on hand for emergencies when a child becomes distressed even in an unexpected noisy situation.
Despite the lightweight nature of the defenders, they are sturdy enough to withstand repeated use. However, children should be supervised while using the ear muffs as it has been noted by several users that the headband is vulnerable to breakage.
At an SNR of 26dB, the ear protectors provide adequate protection for a range of noisy environments, from busy public places to loud concerts. They also comply to the European Standard for hearing protection (EN352), so you can be sure your child’s hearing is safe.
Edz Kidz also provide an adult version of the ear defenders, in yellow and red, and would be ideal for both autistic adults and parents of autistic children who want to reassure their child that adults wear can wear them too.
Overall, Edz Kidz provide an attractive range of colourful, lightweight and effective Ear Defenders that won’t break the bank, for those wanting to help make life for their child a little easier in noisy environments.
3M Peltor Optime Kid Little Prince Children Ear Muffs
A durable pair of children’s ear defenders from a respected brand.
|Check on Amazon||27dB||260 Grams||Smaller children|
3M are a trusted name when it comes to hearing protection, therefore you can be sure their range of ear defenders for children are of the same high quality as those for adults.
The 3M PELTOR Ear Muffs have been designed with children in mind, with a headband specially designed to fit snugly even for very small children, and come fitted with soft padded cushions to make long wear a comfortable experience.
The cushions are also replaceable and new ones can be purchased on 3M’s website, which provides peace of mind, and, unlike the cheaper models available on the market, the 3M PELTOR Ear Muffs are built to last.
With an SNR of 27dB, the ear muffs are suitable for a range of loud social situations that may cause distress to those with autism, and come with the reassurance of compliance to European Standards of Safety (EN352), as with the Edz Kidz model.
3M’s reputation for high quality ear defenders (see more 3M ear defenders compared here) makes these child’s ear defenders a safe purchase.
While they are a little more expensive than other models on the market, the 3M PELTOR ear defenders more than make up for it with a range of features and above all, their ability to provide robust and comfortable hearing protection that is built specifically for small children.
As well as the Little Prince blue, the range also includes Little Princess Pink, available from Amazon and 3M’s website.
SoundBarren Ear Plugs – a discrete alternative to ear defenders
If you feel self-conscious wearing ear defenders, these ear plugs are a good alternative.
While ear muffs are an ideal and attractive purchase consideration for children, when it comes to adults it may be that ear muffs are not suitable due to their size and visibility.
For a more discreet option, there are a whole host of disposable ear plugs available on the marketplace that are often very cost effective. However, Soundbarren have produced a handy reusable pair of ear plugs that provide the ideal solution for those needing discreet sound reduction on the go.
Made of clear hypoallergenic silicone, the ear plugs fit snugly in the ear and won’t irritate even the most sensitive of skin, which also makes them ideal for extended wear. They are also easily cleaned, making them a hygienic everyday solution.
Being clear and colourless means they are also extremely discreet, which makes them ideal for adults who require noise-reduction without drawing attention.
SoundBarren also provide a handy carry-case for easy storage on the go, as well as an optional cord which allows you to take the plugs out without fear of losing them.
Like the ear muffs previously described, the ear plugs offer the same fantastic sound reduction of an SNR of 28dB, suitable for use at concerts, sports events or even just for sleep.
They also come with the same EN352 safety compliance standards as the ear muffs, meaning you get the same protection guarantee but in a much smaller package.
Overall, the SoundBarren Ear Plugs are ideal for adults with autism who need a discreet and portable way of reducing noise in a range of environments.
Despite the relative high cost when compared to disposable ear-plugs, the SoundBarren model is reusable, portable and high quality, making them a great investment.
How Ear Defenders Can Help With Autism
One common autistic trait is sensitivity to noise. Sudden and unexpected noises that most people would barely notice can be very stressful for people with autism. Loud environments can also cause what is known as ‘sensory overload’, which is a feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control.
Ear defenders can help in lots of situations, including the following:
- For autistic children in the classroom
- Cafes and crowded places
- In places with background noise (traffic, construction etc.)
- Trains, buses and other public transport
How to Choose Ear Defenders for Autism
First off, if you are buying ear defenders for a child you should know that sensory overload doesn’t affect everyone with autism, so a diagnosis of autism doesn’t automatically mean you need to buy ear defenders. However, if your child shows symptoms of sensory overload, ear defenders could be a great help.
You might need some patience when choosing ear defenders for everyone, and the first pair you try might not be the right one. Each person with autism is different, so what helps one person might not help another. Some autistic people don’t get on with ear defenders at all, and prefer noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs.
You should consider the size and colour of the ear defenders you are looking at. Some autistic people have a preference for particular colours, so this should be considered. If you are buying ear defenders for a child you should buy a pair that is designed for children as an adult pair might be too big.
People with autism are often sensitive to textures, so it’s very important that the ear defenders you choose are comfortable. If possible, go to a shop that sells ear defenders and try on a few different pairs.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones or Ear Defenders?
One popular alternative to using ear defenders is to use noise-cancelling headphones. Headphones can help if you or the person you’re buying them for likes listening to music or other sound to block out external sounds. White noise and nature sounds can be good at blocking out the external world.
Ear defenders and ear plugs don’t completely block out all sound, so some people with autism will still be disturbed by the noise that gets through. This makes headphones a good alternative, as the autistic person can listen to something predictable so sounds from the outside world will be less noticeable and less distressing.
However, noise-cancelling headphones are more expensive than ear defenders, and you need an MP3 player or other device to use them. Noise-cancelling headphones also produce residual sound which can be an issue for some people.
Other Ways to Help Reduce Sensory Overload from Noise
In addition to buying ear defenders there are a few other ways you can help prevent sensory overload:
- Close windows and doors to dampen sounds from outside
- Play music or white noise at a constant volume
- Plan ahead – anticipate noisy environments and have some ear defenders on hand in case you need them
- Restrict time spent in noisy and chaotic environments