Welcome to EarDefender.co.uk! Our goal is to help you protect one of your most important senses: your hearing.
Ear protection is extremely important for lots of different people, including:
- Musicians, singers, concert-goers and DJs
- Marksmen and hunters
- Factory workers
- Motorcyclists and motorsports people
- Soldiers and members of the Navy
- Pilots and aviation workers
- Gardeners and grounds maintenance staff
- Builders and construction workers
Earplugs and ear defenders are also used for a lot of other reasons such as:
- Blocking out the sound of snoring or traffic to get a good night’s sleep
- Reducing the volume of environmental noise for extra-sensitive people including those with autism
Best Ear Defenders in the UK
There isn’t a single pair of ear defenders that will suit everyone. The right pair will depend on several factors including your age, what you intend to use them for, your budget and the size of your head!
Below we’ve picked out three of our favourite ear defenders on the market in 2018.
Best Ear Defenders for Work – 3M Peltor Optime 3 Headband Ear Defenders
Part of the respected 3M Peltor range, the Optime 3 Headband Ear Defenders are a heavy-duty pair of ear defenders that offer a very high level of protection.
These ear defenders have an SNR of 35 dB, which means you can expect a roughly 35 dB reduction in the volume of loud sounds hitting your ear drums. Very few ear defenders offer a higher level of protection than this, so these are a good choice if you’re serious about protecting your hearing.
The 3M Peltor Optime 3 Headband Ear Defenders are a good choice if you work in a noisy environment such as an airport, construction site or factory. They’re designed to be worn at work, and are tough and durable.
Best Ear Defenders for Children – Edz Kidz Ear Defenders
These fun-looking ear defenders come in a large choice of colours and designs that kids will love. Weighing just 190 grams, they don’t feel too bulky or heavy for children, and the adjustable headband means they will fit children from the age of 6 months upwards. They can even be resized to fit an adult’s head, so you can use them yourself if you need to.
With an SNR of 26 dB, the Edz Kidz Ear Defenders will reduce the volume of loud sounds by roughly 26 decibels. This offers a good level of protection for watching concerts, firework displays and going to music festivals. They’re also good for children on the autistic spectrum who can suffer from sensory overload, as they help block out distressing noises.
Best Electronic Ear Defenders – 3M Peltor SportTac
If you enjoy shooting as a hobby it’s very important to protect your hearing. Electronic ear defenders such as the 3M Peltor SportTacs not only block out loud noises such as the sound of gunshot, they also have a built-in microphone which amplifies quiet noises such as the sound of birds or people speaking. This makes them great for hunting and recreational shooting as you can protect your ears while being able to hear what’s going on around you.
These ear defenders from 3M Peltor are some of the most well respected electronic ear defenders on the market. They have an SNR of 26 dB which means they will reduce the volume of gunshot by roughly 26 decibels, providing real protection for your ears.
These ear defenders have a comfortable design and are made to a very high standard. They’re relatively expensive, but are a good investment.
Types of ear protection
There are several different types of hearing protection, and it’s important to know the differences between them in order to select the right ear protection for you.
Foam ear plugs
Foam earplugs have a wide variety of uses, from protecting your ears at work to preventing you divorcing your snoring spouse.
Corded ear plugs
Corded ear plugs aren’t designed to be used for a long period of time, so they are a good option for people such as factory managers who are exposed to loud sounds for brief period of time rather than all day.
Banded ear plugs
Banded ear plugs are quicker and easier to use than regular ear plugs, but not as large and hot as earmuffs. Like corded ear plugs, they’re good for occasional use.
Ear defenders, also referred to as earmuffs, go over the ears rather than in them. They come in two types: passive and electronic. Passive ear defenders are regular ear defenders, while electronic ear defenders amplify quiet noises, essentially bringing all the sounds around you to roughly the same level. Electronic ear defenders are useful for shooting and hunting, where you want to hear quiet noises but reduce the loud sounds of gunshot.
Types of Ear Defenders
No matter the noise environment you’re in, there’s a hearing protection product for you. Ear defenders are a very broad range of products, offering products from simple earplugs all the way up to advanced radio-enabled ear defenders. Different noise environments will require different protection.
On the market today is a vast range of ear defenders for different applications. Some of the main types include the following:
- Standard ear defenders that just use acoustic foam to absorb sounds
- Advanced electronic ear defenders that use microphones and speakers to only let safe sounds through
- Radio-enabled ear defenders that allow listening to music on the radio
- Advanced ear defenders that integrate noise cancelling technology
Let’s break down the different types for you, so that you’re able to pick the product that best suits your needs.
Passive Ear Defenders
Passive noise reduction is a technique that has been employed to protect your hearing for at least a century. Put simply, they rely on a physical barrier to stop sound from reaching your ear. Most ear defenders on the market rely on passive noise reduction as a primary source of protection.
In general, passive ear defenders make use of layered acoustic foam to attenuate incoming sound to a safe level. The foam absorbs incoming sounds thanks to its porous structure, preventing damage to your hearing.
Passive ear defenders are by far the most common variety available. Due to their simplistic nature, they’re fairly cheap to manufacture. The passive noise reduction technique is highly effective, forming the basis of nearly all hearing protection products available.
For all applications, passive ear defenders will offer the protection you need, but may be lacking convenience features.
Electronic Ear Defenders
Electronic ear defenders offer a unique advantage over plain passive ear defenders. They use a system of microphones and speakers to control what the wearer can hear, cutting off sound completely if a loud sound occurs.
These types of ear defenders are primarily used by shooters who need to be able to hear conversations, but need protection from the extremely loud bursts of noise from their firearms.
Certain models of electronic ear defender offer ambient noise amplification to the user. This allows the user to hear distant sounds far better than without the hearing protection.
Amplification has a number of uses to shooters, particularly hunters. When operating a firearm, being fully aware of your surroundings is important, so some kind of stereo audio solution with amplification can be very useful.
Radio Ear Defenders
For workers that are working full workdays with hearing protection on, the lack of something interesting to listen to can be an issue. Radio ear defenders allow the wearer to listen to radio channels, both for communication and entertainment.
Certain models even allow the wearer to use them as a conventional set of headphones that can be plugged into a phone or MP3 player.
Put simply, radio ear defenders are conventional passive ear defenders that include a radio receiver to allow the wearer to listen to music, or communicate with other workers.
Active Ear Defenders
Unlike the other types of ear defenders on this list, active ear defenders make use of active noise reduction techniques instead. This usually means using active noise cancellation which uses a microphone to take the ambient sound, which can then be turned 180° out of phase and played back through a speaker. Put simply, this cancels out the noise, rendering it inaudible.
Typically, active noise cancellation ear defenders find use in noise environments with constant low-frequency noise. This means that they’re most effective at dealing with the consistent humming of machinery.
Now that you understand the four major types of ear defender and the technologies they offer, you can better pick the type that suits your needs. Hearing protection is very important in loud environments, so it’s critical that you choose protection that offers the level of protection and comfort you need, as well as the features that you want.
Things to consider when choosing ear protection
Choosing the right ear protection can seem complicated given how many different options there are. Here are some things to consider.
SNR stands for Single Number Rating. It measures the noise reduction offered by ear plugs and ear defenders in decibels. To offer good protection, the SNR should be at least 25.
Many ear defenders are designed with adjustable headbands and soft cushioned ear pads. Ear plugs can be quite uncomfortable if they’re the wrong size or aren’t soft enough. Getting custom-made ear plugs is the best way to ensure they feel comfortable.
Ear protection varies greatly in price, from disposable plastic ear plugs that can be bought for £1 or so to electronic ear defenders or custom-made ear plugs that can cost over £100. Make sure you get the best ear protection possible within your budget by checking its SNR and reading reviews about how comfortable it is.
Protecting your ears at work
Since 2005, employers have been legally required to take action to prevent or reduce the risk of hearing damage in noisy workplaces. This involves providing employees with hearing protection equipment if the noise itself can’t be reduced to below 85 dB. Read more about what Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require of employers here.
This legal requirement might apply to you if your workplace matches any of these descriptions for most of the working day:
- As noisy as a vacuum cleaner
- So loud that it is hard to have a conversation without raising your voice
- Employees are using power tools
- Employees are working with loud machinery
- Regular loud noises caused by high-impact activities like drilling or hammering
Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. You can also experience it as buzzing, whistling, humming or hissing. It’s estimated that around 10% of the population in the UK have some form of tinnitus. It can be a temporary problem or affect you for the long term.
Exposure to loud noise is one of the main causes of tinnitus, so it’s important to protect your ears to prevent it from developing.