1. The list in brief
2. Best overall
3. Best for simplicity
4. Best for style
5. Best for festivals
6. Best for musicians
7. Best value earplugs
8. Best mid-range plugs
9. Best keyring earplugs
10. Best with auto-adjust
11. Expert buying advice
12. Custom earplugs
12. Advice for musicians
13. How we test
Nothing beats going to see your favourite band live - whether that's in a regular city venue, local arena, stadium or festival site. There have been some awesome tours so far in 2023 and there's more to come, but in the scramble to get tickets and the excitement of heading to the gig, it's easy to forget the importance of keeping our hearing safe – and that's where our guide to the best earplugs for concerts comes in.
To understand why hearing protection is important and to get some useful advice, I spoke with Emily Broomhead, the campaigns manager at Tinnitus UK, after the charity reported that 30% of people will experience the condition at some point in their lives.
Emily told Louder: "Keep taking and using earplugs. Take a spare pair of earplugs too, in case you lose one or both. And importantly, if you feel uncomfortable you can always walk away. No live event is more important than your hearing. Never be afraid to leave. We get so many people telling us, 'If only I had walked away.' Don't let that be you."
Some earplugs offer comfort for long festival weekends, while others are ideal for fans and musicians alike, with various earplugs protecting your hearing to greater levels than others.
Chris is a journalist with more than 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.
Scott has spent more than 30 years in journalism covering everything from audio tech and video games, to travel, sport and news. He's written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog and reviews headphones, speakers, books and more.
Best earplugs for concerts: Quick list
Best earplugs overall
Our top pick in our list of the best earplugs for concerts is from the music maestros at Fender. The Fender Musician Series earplugs are comfortable to wear and provide 27dB of noise reduction while you're at the gig. Unlike some models, these are reusable and available for a great price.
Best for simplicity
With their subtle design and suitability for loud music, the Vibes Hi-Fidelity earplugs are a great choice for live music lovers. They offer up to 22db of hearing protection and are streets ahead of the cheaper one-and-done foam models. They also look pretty smart and when testing, I hardly noticed they were in my ears.
Best earplugs for style
The Loop Experience High Fidelity earplugs are our favourite earplugs when it comes to style. They're available in a bunch of different colours, with Loop also releasing cool limited editions.They'll give you 18db of protection while gigging and come with four tip sizes for the perfect fit.
Best for festivals
The Alpine MusicSafe Pro earplugs are a solid purchase and not only do they provide three levels of noise reduction depending where you're using them, but the pack also contains a case, cleaning fluid and cable. A top option for dropping into your pocket before heading to the concert.
Best for musicians
These funky-looking Earos One earplugs offer impressive noise reduction of between 17db-25lb and are pretty distinctive due to their sleek finish and unusual shape. They can be a bit of a fiddle to secure, but once in your lugs they are comfortable. Perfect for musicians and gig-goers.
Best value earplugs
These silicone earplugs from Eargrace are available for a great price and protect your ears with 23db and will whisk away high-pitch noises leaving you free to enjoy the live music. The pack also includes a neat wee carry case which also acts as a keyring so you need never forget your earplugs again.
Load the next 3 products...
Best mid-range earplugs
The EarLabs dBud will give you two levels of noise reduction: 11db and 24dB and they come with three eartip sizes so you're guaranteed to get a good fit. They also have an in-built acoustic filter and while they tend to stick out more than some earplugs in our list, they still come recommended.
Best with keyring
The neat Earpeace High Fidelity Concert earplugs are a great option as they offer up to 26dB protection for your lugs. They're also reusable and come with a really handy carry case which doubles as a keyring, so you need never worry about heading to a gig without them in your pocket.
The Etymotic Music Pro earplugs might be a bit more expensive than other options in this list, but we think the extra financial outlay is worth it. There's no need to fiddle with different noise reduction levels as these earplugs auto adjust between 9dB-15dB and they come bundled with a case and cleaning kit.
Best earplugs for concerts and live music in 2023
You can trust Louder Our experienced team has worked for some of the biggest brands in music. From testing headphones to reviewing albums, our experts aim to create reviews you can trust. Find out more about how we review.
In our list of the best earplugs for concerts and live music below, you'll find detailed information about each of the earplugs that made the grade. We've not only tested these at live events, but some have also been put through their paces in the studio and you'll find links to our reviews below too.
Best earplugs overall
Our first entry is from one of music’s more familiar brands. The American-made Fender Musician Series plugs are built to withstand the full force of stage volume, delivering an impressive 27dB NRR. They’re also reusable, inexpensive and didn't make me look like an alien while attending a recent concert.
If heavier music is your thing – and as you're on Louder, I suspect you do – and the shows you attend are typically loud, then these could be the best ear plugs for you.
Read the full Fender Musician Earplugs review
Best for simplicity
The Vibes Hi-Fidelity earplugs focus on reducing (attenuating) volume, employing special filters to fine-tune certain damaging frequencies. Overall noise is reduced, but without muffling the sound too badly. If you're used to using cheap foam options, you'll know what we mean by 'muffled'. I didn't find the muffling to be too distracting with these earplugs.
The design and build is super cool too. Once they're in your ears, I found that the low profile and clear plastic housing meant I barely knew they were there, and neither will anyone else. I found them comfortable during long band practices and multi-band bills, too.
Read the full Vibes Hi-Fidelity review
Best for style
The reusable Loop Experience High Fidelity Ear Plugs are perhaps the most stylish in our list thanks to their cool ‘loop’ design. Not only do they look great, but they also come in a variety of colours: Black, rose gold, gold and silver. But of course the real test is what they can do to help protect you when out and about and at concerts.
They offer an 18 decibel reduction in noise and the pack contains XS, S, M and L silicone tips to ensure a good fit along with a keychain carry case so I could stow them away safely after use – and not go desperately scrambling through my pockets to find them when I got home.
Not only do these dampen the decibels, but they also manage to let the sound in and don’t muffle live music like some foam plugs tend to do… and they stay firmly in place. In my opinion – and taking cost into consideration – having a set of these on hand when you head out to see live music is definitely worth it.
Read the full Loop Experience earplugs review
Best for festivals
As one of the bigger names in ear and hearing protection, the Alpine MusicSafe Pro ear plugs are always worth checking out. The good news is that they are superb for most applications, with interchangeable filters ensuring differing levels of noise attenuation depending on the situation.
The kit comes complete with a carrying case, cleaning fluid and a cable to hold them safely together, making this a pretty compelling package.
Read the full Alpine MusicSafe Pro Earplugs review
Best for musicians
If you’re a musician who's looking for a cracking set of earplugs, then the excellent Earos One are a great fit. Sure, they can also be used by live music fans but musicians will see the biggest benefit as they were conceived by a former director of the MIT Acoustics And Vibratory Lab.
I found them to be a little bit unwieldy, but they were comfortable when fitted and they'll make your time on stage much more bearable thanks to their medical grade TPE tips.
Read the full Earos One review
Best value earplugs
Look on any large online retailer and you’ll find countless, almost identical-looking earplug models, but the Eargrace High Fidelity stand out for a number of reasons. First is the combination of attenuation filters, which ensured I could hear the full musical frequency spectrum live but at a reduced volume. They also come with a number of handy accessories: a case, cleaning brush and connecting cord.
I don't think they would give you years of live music and festival outings without falling apart, but as an entry point into hearing protection at a sensible cost, the Eargrace High Fidelity earplugs are very easy to recommend.
Read the full Eargrace High Fidelity Earplugs review
Best mid-range earplugs
Sitting a step above the cheap and cheerful models, yet not quite in the high end, comes the EarLabs dBud earplugs. I really like the combination of both foam and silicone buds in a range of sizes, which meant I was able to easily find a perfect fit.
The overall construction and durability on these earbuds is high, meaning the dBuds could feasibly last a few years of shows and festivals before they need replacing.
Best keyring earplugs
Another good option are the Earpeace High Fidelity Concert earplugs which offer up to 26dB of noise cancelling, making them ideal for concert-goers. They give you three levels of sound reduction: Medium, high and max, so they’re also a top choice for wearing on the morning commute or during a gym session.
They’re made from silicone and you’ll get a set of small and a set of medium earplugs in the pack. These reusable earplugs also come with an aluminium case with keyring attachment, so you can keep them close without fear of losing them.
Best with auto-adjust
At the top end of the line-up we have the Etymotic Music Pro active ear plugs. These employ an electronic circuit which automatically adjusts to changing sound levels. In practice, this means that noise below a certain level passes through freely, but when the earplugs detect a raised volume level, they spring into life.
Yes, they are the priciest models on display here, but with them comes a level of technology and smarts that the other models can’t compete with.
Expert buying advice
If you’re looking at earplugs for concerts, it’s likely for one of two reasons. Either your hearing is perfect and you’d like to keep it that way, or your ears have taken a battering over the years and you don’t want to make things worse and land yourself with tinnitus.
Whatever your reason, dedicated hearing protectors are a very wise purchase for anyone who loves live music – or works in a noisy job. As with the best headphones, most hearing protection tends to fall in one of two brackets: over-ear and in-ear. We’re not going to dwell too much on the differences as they should be fairly self-explanatory, however in this best earplugs guide we’ve, rather obviously, opted for in-ears instead of bulky ear defenders.
Within those two brackets, however, there is a fair amount of difference, and you get what you pay for too. You could put a small amount of cash into something cheap, yet ultimately disposable, or you could invest in something that will see you through many years of gigs and festivals.
A decent barometer of performance comes in measuring the levels of noise a product offers protection from. For example, any ear protection sold in the United States must be tested according to American National Standards (ANSI), upon which it is given a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).
However, attending a concert with a decibel level of 100dB and wearing 33dB-rated earplugs doesn’t mean the new level is 67dB. No, that would be far too simple! Instead, there’s a formula: deduct 7 from the NRR rating and divide the resulting number by two. This is the amount of protection on offer.
So, continuing the same example; a 100dB concert would be reduced to 87dB by wearing ear protection rated at 33dB.
With a wide range of earplugs available, there’s much talk about the benefits of custom moulded earplugs and the difference they can make when it comes to protecting your hearing, either at a live show or in the work environment.
Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach like most earplugs, like the name suggests, custom earplugs mould themselves snuggly into the shape of your ear canals to provide a comfortable fit and keep unwanted noise levels out.
Some, such as the Decibullz custom moulded earplugs, allow you to mould each bud at home. Granted, it can be a bit of a faff to get right, but it does mean you’ll get a good fit which is really what we’re after. You can also remould them should the results not be perfect the first time around... so no worries about messing things up straight out of the box.
If you want to go that extra mile, you can visit a hearing healthcare professional who should also be able to create moulds for earbud use.
It’s also worth pointing out that custom moulded earplugs can be priced higher than other earplugs due to their individual nature, with guidance suggesting that new ear canal impressions are taken every four years as your ears continue to grow as you get older.
Are foam earplugs any good?
On the list above, we included the Neutron soft foam earplugs – one of many similar products on the market. These foam tips are at the cheaper end of the scale and in our opinion should only be used as a backup. Unlike some of the other options, foam earplugs muffle all sounds and don’t let much audio through unlike the more expensive models. As such, they’re better suited to getting a good night’s sleep than rocking out in a crowd.
On my gig travels, I’ve seen similar foam earplugs given away free at the bar but the uptake has never seemed that high – although at a Swans/Anna von Hausswolff concert several years ago, I was only too happy to see a cup of red foam earbuds perched on a table. In all my years of watching live music, I had never experienced music so loud, and I gratefully stuffed a couple into my lugs.
It was a memorable live event for all the wrong reasons as I couldn’t really pick out any intricacies in the music after only a short time. Even worse was that my head ached for several days afterwards and my hearing took a battering. Despite these negatives, it was that night that convinced me to invest in a good pair of earplugs and I haven't looked back.
So foam earplugs are better than nothing if you’re in a pinch, but remember that each pair should only be worn once and then disposed of. The shape will change with repeated use and they’re not the most hygienic option available.
Advice for musicians
With live music making its long-awaited comeback, it’s not just fans who need to look after their hearing – musicians who are constantly on the road are well aware of the risk of hearing loss.
I recently spoke with Liam Hennessy, the head of health and welfare at Help Musicians, and Paul Checkley, who is partner and clinical director at Harley Street Hearing & Musicians Hearing Services about what steps musicians can take to better protect themselves. They both stressed the importance of preventing career-threatening hearing issues and highlighted the Hear For Musicians initiative for members of The Musicians’ Union.
Liam also spoke about the “rising issue” of hearing loss within the industry, saying: “Help Musicians is seeing an increase in the number of musicians getting in touch for help; the British Tinnitus Association also saw a 47% surge in those seeking help for tinnitus during lockdown.
“Speaking openly about these issues helps to remove the stigma and encourages others to seek help, as well as prompting those without symptoms to regularly check their own hearing health. We would encourage all musicians to take preventative measures to protect their hearing in order to sustain a long and healthy career in music."
Paul added: “The key here is to ensure your hearing is protected. There are now special flat-response musicians earplugs, which reduce the level of the music entering the ear but maintain the fidelity by attenuating all frequencies to the same level. Most standard earplugs attenuate more high frequencies, which can result in a dullness of sound and make speech difficult to understand. The flat response plugs simply reduce the volume without affecting the sound quality.
“If you are struggling with tinnitus there are a number of techniques and therapies that can help. The best place to start is with your GP who should be able to direct you to someone who can help.”
How we test earplugs
The Louder earplug review process is editorially independent and not influenced by any third parties. Our review samples are sourced directly from the manufacturer or purchased via a retailer.
We’re music fans here at Louder. Therefore, we test our plugs in the only proving ground we know – live music venues and band rehearsal rooms.
Our testers evaluate the earplugs in the following categories:
- Comfort and fit
- Build quality/materials
This enables us to produce accurate, well-balanced and real-life reviews to help you easily figure out whether the plugs you’re interested in are really the best choice for you.
Our testing criteria in detail:
- Comfort and fit - Do the plugs come with multiple tips to allow for different size ear canals, or are they shaped in a way to provide decent levels of isolation from damaging frequencies? Are the earplugs comfortable for long periods of wear or do they fatigue the ears quickly?
- Features - Does the package include things like a carry case, a string to connect the earbuds together or any products to clean them?
- Build quality/materials - In a nutshell, are they built to last, or will they need replacing quickly?
- Performance - To what extent do the earplugs reduce the damaging frequencies of the sound you're listening to? Then, just as importantly, how do they impact the quality of the sound you’re hearing?
Testing team: who are we?
- Louder’s reviewers are a collective of music fans and musicians who have been attending and performing gigs for years – from the noisiest AC/DC stadium shows to ear splitting club shows from bands like Swans – we know how bad gigs can be for long-term ear health.
- Some of us are also musicians – including gigging drummers and guitarists – who have spent more time than we can remember squeezed up against Marshall stacks or ear height with a ride cymbal. We know the impact this activity can have on your ears when you don’t use protection, and we know the protection that works best.
- "No live event is more important than your hearing."
- Living with tinnitus: "We all love music – why would we want to lose that?"
- Help Musicians offer support to artists over "rising issue" of hearing loss
- How to keep your earplugs clean so you can use them time after time
- Best concert ticket sites: Don’t miss your favourite artists