Love live music? It’s likely that you’ve experienced years of loud sound exposure.
It’s no surprise, live music is a rush. But, don’t let that excitement diminish your commitment to hearing protection. And once your hearing is gone, it’s gone for good.
Believe me—as an audiologist, I’ve met many music enthusiasts with hearing loss or tinnitus due to years of live concert exposure.
You only get one pair of ears, so let's cherish them, shall we? Fortunately, there are even stylish options nowadays, so you can invest in a pair and rock out to your heart's content without hearing damage!
So let's take a deep dive into the world of earplugs. There’s some great options on the market, and here are my audiologist-approved selections for your consideration.
💨 In a hurry? Our top concert earplugs are:
Loop Experience - Best Overall
Etymotic ER20XS - For Audiophiles
Eargasm - Longest Lasting
Why are special music earplugs a concert essential?
Well, to put it simply, because concerts are extremely loud.
People often don't realize this, but hearing damage starts at approximately 85 decibels (dB), while the average concert easily exceeds that, peaking at times around 120 dB. That’s a significant uptick in decibels.
Hearing protection isn't the end of the story. At a concert, you have competing priorities. On the one hand, you need to protect your hearing, but on the other hand, you want to enjoy the actual sounds of the concert. This is where high-fidelity earplugs come in.
All music-focused earplugs work similarly - they include a filter that attempts to bring down the volume equally across frequencies (sometimes called "flat frequency response").
And that damage is cumulative, so the more concerts you attend without ear protection, the more at risk you are. That's where earplugs come in, saving your ears from becoming a music casualty while still having a blast (pun intended).
What should I look for in good live music earplugs?
A good pair of concert earplugs should protect your ears, but that's just the baseline. Here are some other important factors to consider:
Comfort and Fit
If the earplugs are a pain in your ear, you're unlikely to wear them, so make sure they're comfortable for your aural senses to enjoy.
The effectiveness of hearing protection is notated as noise reduction rating (aka, NRR). There are some quirky nuances to NRR, but NRR is the minimum protection each product will provide. NRR 15, for example, will at least reduce volumes by 15 dB.
Music-focused earplugs typically reduce noise from 13 - 18 dB. Construction workers and hunters should opt for alternate products with NRR ratings in the 20s or above.
Are you a one-time user or do you want something reusable? Foam earplugs are easy to find and cheap, but let's face it, they're not the best for hearing your favorite tunes. They also last for only 1-2 uses.
On the other hand, custom-fitted earplugs are top-notch, provide targeted protection that's oh-so-comfortable, and they last for years.
As an in-between option, if you want something affordable yet high-quality, check out brands like Loop, Etymotic, Eargasm, and Vibes. With any of these options, you’ll be able to protect your ears with style and pizzazz. These higher quality options will also preserve the quality of music with minimal distortion.
Alright, let's get into the 4 best earplugs for live music.
#1. Loop Experience - Stylish and Effective
Keep it classy and practical with these cool, silicone earplugs. The ear tips come in a wide range of different sizes to best fit your ears.
The Loop Experience earplugs have an NRR of 18 dB. reducing the volume of live music while maintaining superb sound quality. Plus, they come in funky colors to match your vibe. There is also a cute carrying case to put on your keychain!
- NRR of 18 dB
- Keychain carry case
- Endless colors
#2. Etymotic ER20XS - Best Sound Filter
Etymotic is the OG in the high-fidelity earplug space. The company made its name in the 80s with a design that prioritized "flat frequency response". Their designs still stand out among the field for audio purists.
These earplugs have a noise reduction rating of 13 dB and provide excellent music quality without distortion. You'll appreciate that they are also designed to be comfortable for extended wear. ER20XS come in standard, large, or universal (includes several different options) sizes with a handy carrying case.
- NRR of 13 dB
- Included carry case and neck cord
- Long-standing audiophile-friendly filters
#3. Eargasm High Fidelity - Longest Life
Don't be fooled by the cheeky name—these earplugs mean business. With a noise reduction rating of 16 dB, you'll get clear, full sound protection. No worries about sizing either; choose from standard and small. Plus, they come with a cylinder, keychain carrying case.
- NRR of 16 dB
- Cylinder, keychain carry case
- Variety of filter colors
- Replaceable filters
#4. Vibes - Stylish Runner Up
As seen on Shark Tank, these earplugs offer discreet design and high-quality hearing protection.
More specifically, these earplugs have a NRR of 15 dB. In addition, the three different size ear tips provide options for the best fit in your ears.
Vibes does not sell eartips and filters separately so you'll need to purchase a new pair from time-to-time.
- NRR of 15
- Various eartip sizes
- Carry case
What is the lifespan of my earplugs?
The answer depends on a few factors, like the material and brand.
Most of our earplug options boast silicone-based designs, such as the Loop Earplugs with easy-to-clean, replaceable silicone ear tips. These ear tips will serve you well for three to six months, a decent lifespan!
For Etymotic earplugs, every three to six months is also the magic replacement mark. However, Eargasm customers report enjoying an astounding lifespan of one to three years with regular cleaning; now, that's a lot of concerts!
But wait, there's more! Unfortunately, Vibes doesn't sell silicone earpieces separately, so you'll need to buckle up for an entirely new pair every three to six months.
Which earplug is the best option for me?
Which one should you go for? Any earplugs from this list are great as they reduce sound volume while preserving high-quality sound. But if you have canals that are on the narrow side, Loop Earplugs offer the widest range of sizes.
Looking for the most cost-effective option? Eargasm earplugs are real survivors, keeping your ears jamming for one to three years with regular cleaning.
Is working up a serious sweat your thing? We hear ya! And that's why your best bet is the Etymotic earplugs' triple flange feature, as these stay in place with a little more pressure and depth in the ear.
Finally, if you want a sneaky, stylish pair of earplugs, Vibes has you covered. They're so cool; they could pass for wireless earbuds.
As an audiologist, I urge you to invest in a good pair of earplugs and enjoy the music to your heart's content without compromising your hearing health. Hearing damage can be irreversible and impacts your quality of life.
While getting caught up in the excitement of live music is easy, it's essential to prioritize hearing protection.
Unfortunately, we can't yet restore the inner ear after noise damage occurs. With so many affordable, high-quality earplugs, there's no excuse not to protect your ears at concerts.