Autism is a daily part of life for 2.8 million people in the UK, including adults and children on the spectrum (estimated to be 700,000 people), as well as their families supporting them.
Autism can have a significant impact on various aspects of everyday life, including how we deal with sensory inputs such as noise.
Many people on the Autism spectrum can struggle with sensory overload, where certain sights, sounds and smells can become too much to process.
For those that who are particularly sensitive to noise, sounds can become magnified, making events such as concerts, social gatherings and busy public places stressful and sometimes unbearable places to be.
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.
We’ve researched the market and picked out some of the best ear defenders for autistic adults and children currently available in the UK.
- Best Ear Defenders for Autistic Adults
- Best Ear Defenders for Autistic Children
- How Ear Defenders Can Help Autistic People
- Can Autistic Kids Wear Ear Defenders at School?
- How to Choose Ear Defenders for Autism
- Noise-Cancelling Headphones or Ear Defenders?
- Other Ways to Help Reduce Sensory Overload from Noise
- Do Ear Defenders Block Out All Sound?
Best Ear Defenders for Autistic Adults
If you’re an adult, any good pair of ear defenders should be able to do the trick at blocking out noise.
However, if you want to wear ear defenders in public, you might appreciate a discrete pair that looks like a pair of headphones.
This will mean you can block out the sounds around you without drawing attention to yourself.
It’s also important to choose a comfy pair. As well as noise, clothing and things that go over the head such as ear defenders can cause sensory issues. You want to look for something that won’t feel too tight and/or scratchy.
We’ve picked out a few pairs of ear defenders that work well at blocking out sounds while being comfortable and discrete. They could be good choices for autistic adults.
Mpow Ear Defenders
|£10.99||34 dB||381 g||Adults|
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.
They are a bit bulky, and will make you look a bit as if you should be mixing a hip-hop record! However, ear defenders need to be bulky to have enough padding to block out the noise around you.
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.
Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders
|£13.95||26 dB||240 g||Adults|
These ear defenders are very similar to the Mpow pair reviewed above. They have a discrete headphone-style design and come in a choice of colours (Army Green, Black, Iron Grey or Marine Blue).
The Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders have an NNR rating of 26 dB, which means they may offer less noise attenuation than the Mpow ear defenders reviewed above.
The Vanderfields NR35X2 Ear Defenders can be folded up to make them more compact for carrying around, though they still take up quite a lot of space in a bag.
While these ear defenders are designed for adults, they could also be a good choice for older children and teenagers who want something neutral-looking rather than a pair of children’s ear defenders, which tend to be brightly coloured.
These ear defenders have adjustable pins so you can change fitting depending on your head size. You can also tilt and swivel the ear cups to get the best fit.
They fit quite a large range of head sizes and the headband and ear cups are well padded, so you should find them easy to wear.
Best Ear Defenders for Autistic Children
Choosing a pair of good ear defenders can make a big difference to your autistic child’s quality of life.
Lots of autistic kids find that wearing ear defenders reduces anxiety and stress in a range of places including at school, in the supermarket and in the car, as well as at very loud events such as fireworks displays.
Edz Kidz Ear Defenders
|£10.95||26 dB||190 g||Kids (6 months+)|
Edz Kidz Ear Defenders are a popular choice for protecting children’s hearing, and it’s easy to see why.
The ear 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.
Vanderfields Ear Defenders for Kids
|Check on Amazon||26 dB||200 g||Kids (3 years+)|
Made by the same brand as the adult’s NR35X2 Ear Defenders discussed above, these ear defenders are a popular choice among parents of autistic children.
These ear defenders are designed for kids of age 3 and above, and aren’t recommended for babies and toddlers.
They have an NRR of 26, which means they should reduce the volume of noises by about 26 decibels. This can reduce the volume of stressful loud sounds such as concerts and fireworks to manageable levels.
Pricewise, they are very similar to the Edz Kidz ear defenders, so your choice may come down to the design.
The Vanderfields Ear Defenders come in a good choice of colours, so there should be a pair your child will like. They look quite sophisticated compared to many kids’ ear defenders, so they could be a good choice for older children.
How Ear Defenders Can Help Autistic People
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.
Noise sensitivity manifests itself differently in each autistic individual. Some are sensitive to loud noises, whereas others are sensitive to particular types of sounds, such as the sound of people eating or the sound of things sliding or being dragged.
Ear defenders can be a great investment for autistic people. For around £10, you can buy a product that significantly improves your quality of life.
If you’re a parent, you can make your autistic child’s life noticeably easier and more enjoyable by finding them a good pair of ear defenders.
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
- During firework displays, concerts and sporting events
If you search Google for “ear defenders autism”, you’ll find some fascinating stories about how ear defenders have helped autistic adults and children to enjoy life more.
On The-Art-Of-Autism.com, Angie Arcuri relates how wearing ear defenders for the first time as a 34-year-old autistic adult brought her to tears:
“I immediately felt a total sense of security as the muffs cupped my ears and hugged my head. As I looked around the room, all I could focus on was the sound. I was protected. The moment that really threw me off guard was when my eyes began to well up with tears.”
Can Autistic Kids Wear Ear Defenders at School?
Since ear defenders can help autistic children stay calm, a lot of parents would like their kids to be able to wear them at school.
Under the Equality Act, both state and independent schools have an obligation to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ for disabled students. This includes allowing pupils to wear ear defenders or modifying uniform to accommodate sensory sensitivities.
Your child’s school doesn’t have the right to prevent your child from wearing ear defenders, but you may want to discuss it with them in advance to make sure they understand why your child needs them.
Sometimes a school will provide autistic children with ear defenders. It’s important to realise that not all autistic kids need ear defenders in school, so you don’t want your child to be pressured into wearing them if they aren’t necessary.
Ear defenders can be a visual sign that your child is ‘different’, so you will want to make sure that your child feels happy wearing them in school and isn’t receiving negative attention as a result.
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.
Also, most ear defenders are only recommended for people aged 3 or above, so if your child is younger you should look at specially designed baby ear defenders.
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
Do Ear Defenders Block Out All Sound?
The short answer to this question is no, ear defenders don’t block out 100% of sounds.
It’s currently impossible to create a hearing protection product that can block out 100% of sounds. Even if you’re wearing ear plugs and a tightly sealed pair of ear defenders, some sound will still find a way of getting through.
However, ear defenders can reduce sounds to manageable levels. What was previously a loud and distressing sound can become a faint hum with the help of a good pair of ear defenders.
Combining ear plugs with ear defenders can help reduce sounds, though ear plugs generally only reduce the perceived volume by an extra 5 decibels or so. You can see some of the best ear plugs for noise cancelling here.
The ear defenders reviewed here are all quality products that could be a good choice for you or an autistic loved one.
Here’s a quick summary of the products we’ve looked at.
If you’re choosing ear defenders for an autistic child, the Edz Kidz Ear Defenders have a huge choice of fun designs, while the Vanderfields Ear Defenders for Kids have a more serious look to them, and could be a better choice for older children.