Best earplugs for concerts 2022: Protect your hearing and get your ears gig-ready

Best earplugs for concerts: Crowd at a live show
(Image credit: gilaxia - Getty)

After a turbulent time for the live music scene throughout 2020 and 2021, normality has returned, with more and more bands touring in support of their latest releases. It was a great summer for live music too, with festivals sparking to life around the world once again.

But with the live schedule ramping up for the rest of this year and beyond and more of us returning to venues in our hometowns, making sure our ears are gig-ready is something we're all thinking about as it's so important to protect our hearing at live shows. With that in mind, we've picked a range of the best earplugs for concerts to help minimise the risk of damage to your hearing, so you can enjoy yourself at the venue.

To understand why hearing protection is important and to get some useful advice, we spoke with Emily Broomhead, the Campaigns Manager at the British Tinnitus Association after the charity reported that 30% of people will experience the condition at some point in their lives.  

Emily stressed: "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."

And don't worry – wearing hearing protection at live shows won't hamper your enjoyment of the music – the best earplugs for concerts are designed to safeguard your ears while letting all the good stuff in.

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.

For more information about tinnitus and how to protect your hearing at live shows and festivals, visit the British Tinnitus Association's website.

Best earplugs for concerts: The Louder Choice

The best earplugs for concerts

(Image credit: Fender)

Protecting your hearing at live shows and festivals, and if you’re playing an instrument, is something you should take seriously, but it’s important you don’t completely shut out the thing you enjoy the most: music.

There are plenty of earplugs out there that will help protect your hearing while letting you enjoy your favourite music – and I particularly like the Fender Musician Series Ear Plugs (opens in new tab) which offer 27dB of NRR and are available for a great low price.

Another great option are the Vibes High Fidelity (opens in new tab) earplugs which protect without dampening the sound – and they also look pretty good too.

For these and further options, take a look at our product list below.

Best earplugs for concerts: Product guide

Best earplugs for concerts: Fender Musician Ear Plugs

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)
The best earplugs to keep you safe from loud volumes

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Noise reduction: 27dB

Reasons to buy

+
Ace for standing close to the stage
+
Reusable
+
Budget friendly

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the softest

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 earplugs for concerts: Vibes Hi-Fidelity

(Image credit: Future/James Farmer)
The best earplugs for not looking like you're wearing any

Specifications

Material: Silicone
Noise reduction: 22db

Reasons to buy

+
Slick design
+
Suitable for all ear sizes
+
Well suited to loud music

Reasons to avoid

-
They sell out regularly so finding a pair may be an issue

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'. We 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 earplugs for concerts: Flare Audio Isolate Pro Earplugs

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)
The overall best earplugs for concerts and festivals

Specifications

Materials: Plastic, aluminium, titanium, foam
Noise reduction: Average 32dB

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile
+
Lets in good amount of detail
+
Durable build

Reasons to avoid

-
Small enough that they could be easily lost

Admittedly, there isn’t a huge amount of scope for innovation and technology in the world of earplugs, which is why it’s good to see something new from the Flare Audio Isolate Pro earplugs. The innovation comes in the shape of a small plastic, aluminium or titanium block (we tested titanium) which is inserted into the memory foam tips, which help reduce noise levels but still deliver detail within music thanks to bone conduction. 

In practice we found this worked really well, and the fact they're among the smallest plugs on display in our guide meant we scored them highly on almost every count. That said, they're so small that we're a little worried about losing them – so make sure you use the supplied mesh storage bag and keep a good grip on them in dark venues! 

Read the full Flare Audio Isolate Pro earplugs

Best earplugs for concerts: Loop Earplugs

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)
A super stylish way to knock the decibels down and let the music in

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Noise reduction: 18dB

Reasons to buy

+
Don't muffle the sound
+
They look great
+
Comfortable

Reasons to avoid

-
Style won't be for everyone

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 (opens in new tab)

Best earplugs for concerts: Alpine MusicSafe Pro review

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)
The best earplugs for festival use

Specifications

Materials: Thermoplastic
Noise reduction: 14.3dB / 15.7dB / 16dB

Reasons to buy

+
Interchangeable filters
+
Differing levels of noise attenuation
+
Carry case included

Reasons to avoid

-
Definition gets lost at times

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 earplugs for concerts: Earos One

(Image credit: Earos)

6. Earos One earplugs

Cheap but effective protection for musicians

Specifications

Material: Silicone
Noise reduction: 17 – 25db

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable
+
Great price
+
Superb noise protection

Reasons to avoid

-
A bit unwieldy to use

If you’re a musician who is 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. 

Best earplugs for concerts: Eargrace high fidelity earplugs

(Image credit: Future/Daryl Robertson)
Enjoy good live sound without damaging your hearing

Specifications

Materials: Silicone
Noise reduction: 23dB

Reasons to buy

+
Superb value
+
Blocks out high pitch noises too
+
Durable carry case included

Reasons to avoid

-
A tad uncomfy during longer use

Look on any large online retailer and you’ll find countless, almost identical models or earplugs, but the Eargrace High Fidelity stand out for a number of reasons. First among them 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 like 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 earplugs for concerts: EarLabs dBud

(Image credit: EarLabs)

8. EarLabs dBud

These mid-range earplugs deliver the perfect blend

Specifications

Materials: Silicone/Foam
Noise reduction: 11dB / 24dB

Reasons to buy

+
Three eartip sizes included
+
Two settings for noise reduction
+
Built-in acoustic filter

Reasons to avoid

-
They protrude from the ears a little more than other options

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. 

Groundshaker hi-fi earplugs

(Image credit: Groundshaker)

9. Groundshaker hi-fi earplugs

A pair of reusable, lightweight earplugs that can reduce noise by 40dB

Specifications

Materials: Hypo-allergic soft silicone
Noise reduction: 40dB

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and comfortable
+
Reusable 

Reasons to avoid

-
No carry case

Another neat set of earplugs are these high-fidelity silicone earplugs from Groundshaker. These do a pretty good job of delivering noise reduction of 40dB and are made from hypo-allergic soft silicone, so are lightweight and comfortable to wear. We like their neutral tone and design too and they push audio clarity to the fore while minimising unwanted noise. They’re also washable and reusable and a step up from regular foam earplugs. Our only gripe is the lack of included carry case, which means stuffing them loosely in your pocket on your way out of the gig. Just remember and wash them when you return home.

Best earplugs for concerts: Etymotic Music Pro Earplugs

(Image credit: Etyomic Music)

10. Etymotic Music Pro Earplugs

Great active hearing protection, but it comes at a premium

Specifications

Materials: Not stated
Noise reduction: 9dB /15dB

Reasons to buy

+
Auto-adjust hearing protection
+
Provides two levels of protection
+
Case, cleaning kit and neck cord included

Reasons to avoid

-
An expensive option - but how much do you value your hearing?

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 then if the plugs 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. 

Best earplugs for concerts: Wowtech Super Soft Foam earplugs

(Image credit: Wowtech)

11. Wowtech Super Soft Foam Earplugs

The best earplugs for fair-weather gig-goers

Specifications

Materials: Foam
Noise reduction: 38dB

Reasons to buy

+
60 pairs for a small price
+
Disposable and hygienic
+
Good level of protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Not great for the planet
-
Not as good as pro earplugs

As a very low-end option, the Wowtech Super Soft Foam Earplugs could be handy to keep in the car for use in emergencies. A pack contains 60 pairs, and each offers a highly respectable 38dB of protection from external noise. They come with a keychain travel case which can be popped in your pocket and keeps the earplugs clean and debris free.

While I wouldn’t advocate them as a long-term solution, they're definitely worth a look as they're a handy back-up to have to hand if you've left your other earbuds at home.

Best earplugs for concerts: 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.

Best earplugs for concerts: Custom earplugs

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 (opens in new tab), 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.

Best earplugs for concerts: Are foam earplugs worth it?

On the list above, we included the Wowtech super 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 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. Still, it was that show that prompted 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.

Best earplugs for concerts: 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.”

Best earplugs for concerts: How we test earplugs

Flare Audio Isolate Pro earplugs in a music venue

(Image credit: Future/Chris Barnes)

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:

  • Features
  • Comfort and fit
  • Build quality/materials
  • Performance

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.

Read more on how we test products and services at Louder.

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 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.

With contributions from