Gold as an investment

10 best earplugs for concerts and festivals to protect your hearing

Sep 24, 2022

Festival season is finally fully back on the agenda, and we’re ready. But if the silence of lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that music booming through speakers so loudly they’re trembling can’t be doing our hearing any favours.

And indeed, it doesn’t. Earlier this year, for World Hearing Day, the WHO warned around one billion people between the age of 12 and 35 risk losing their hearing because of prolonged exposure to loud music and other sounds at bars, clubs, concerts and sporting events. So, it’s not without reason that more and more people are investing in a pair of earplugs before heading to their next weekender.

Normal conversations reach a level of around 60dB, and exposure to levels of 70dB or higher for a prolonged period of time can start to damage your hearing. At nightclubs, bars, gigs and concerts, it’s not unusual for music to exceed 100dB, which was reason enough for the WHO to suggest stricter noise limits.

One way to protect your hearing is to wear earplugs to these events. High fidelity earplugs in particular are designed to even out the music more and filter out the noise, rather than muffle it completely. They’re also made to last as opposed to generic foam earplugs, as you can remove the filter and wash the ear tips to keep reusing them.

Earplugs can reduce the amount of noise by between 15-30dB, and you’ll want to aim to bring your exposure down to around 75-85dB for a safer experience, while still being able to enjoy the performance of your favourite artists.

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How we tested

While we didn’t have any festivals scheduled during the testing period, we took these earplugs out for a spin while listening to live music and can testify that every single pair included in this round-up made a massive difference.

They all came with instructions on how to use and clean them and for each of these earplugs, we tried changing the ear tips and cleaning (which was quite a fidgety job). We also wore them for at least four hours in a row to make sure they were comfortable enough to wear to a gig or concert, and did a little dance to check they wouldn’t fall out – imagine trying to look for an earplug in a busy nightclub. We gave extra credit for earplugs that came with different tip sizes, as one size usually doesn’t fit all and who actually knows the size of their ear canal?

  • Best overall – Fender professional hi-fi earplugs: £21.49, Fender.com
  • Best for style – Loop experience earplugs: £21.95, Loopearplugs.com
  • Best for F1 fans – Alpine partyplug pro natrual: £25.95, Alpinehearingprotection.co.uk
  • Best adjustable earplugs – D’Addario dbud volume adjustable earplugs: £49, Dbud.io
  • Best for invisibility – Vibes hi-fidelity earplugs: £24.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best unboxing experience – Eargasm high fidelity earplugs: £79.84, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best foam earplugs – Flare isolate ear protectors: From £12.99, Flareaudio.com
  • Best mobile app combination – EarDial hi-fi invisible earplugs: £24.87, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for a rave – Blox xperience reusable earplugs: £16.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for those who lose things – Earpeace music hi-fi hearing protection: £29.95, Earpeace.co.uk

Fender professional hi-fi earplugs

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

These were made specially for musicians, and it shows in their quality (as well as the case design). If used properly they can provide about 20dB sound reduction, and while this wasn’t even the highest reduction of the ones we’ve tested, the sound quality while wearing these earplugs was only matched by one other pair. They were also really comfy and fit snuggly into our ears – they come with silicone tips in a size M and L so you can find the best fit for you. We thought the pick-shaped keychain case was a clever feature that any music-lover would enjoy too.

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Loop experience earplugs

Best: For style

Rating: 9.5/10

We fell for these the moment we opened the box. Most of the earplugs we tested opted for an “invisible” design, which were often about as invisible as those pesky plastic bra straps we all wore back in the day, so we appreciated that Loop went a completely different route. We opted for the gold ones as they matched nicely with our earrings – when wearing, they looked like just another piece of jewellery. They also came with silicone ear tips in sizes XS to L, meaning you’ll have no problem finding the right fit, and a case.

Apart from that, the sound was of good quality, with a reduction level of 18dB. If that’s not enough for the type of events you go to, you can opt for the Loop experience pro (£30.95, Loopearplugs.com) which come with an add on piece that reduces the sound level by another 5dB.

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Alpine partyplug pro natural

Best: For F1 fans

Rating: 9.5/10

Our sister, who is a die-hard F1 fan, immediately recognised this brand as “the one everyone had at the races”. We tried Alpine’s “party plug” earbuds for this round-up, and while the brand has a specific option for races (£18, Alpinehearingprotection.co.uk), if the technology is good enough for F1, it’s good enough for some live tunes too.

The team at Alpine says you can easily wear them all day – or night – and while we only wore them for four hours straight, based on how comfy the super soft material felt, we have no trouble believing them. Noise levels are reduced by 21dB, and its filter leaves a very natural sound. Alpine has opted for an “invisible” look, and we found they were hidden quite well compared to others. They did only come in one size, but the added soft pouch case, cleaning spray and cord so you can wear them around your neck were nice touches.

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D’Addario dbud volume adjustable earplugs

Best: Adjustable earplugs

Rating: 9/10

These could have been our best buy, but they became a little uncomfy after multiple hours of wear. They might seem expensive too, but you basically get two thanks to its slider. This nifty design lets you switch between 11dB and 24dB reduction, while keeping amazingly clear sound at both. The slides do make them chunkier than others we’ve tried and they fit a bit more like earbuds, which is why they caused some discomfort after a long period of use – so they probably wouldn’t be our go-to for a festival. But for a gig or concert, you won’t find much better. These also come with a comfy neck cord and the earplugs are magnetic so you can click them together, making the cord more of a necklace so it doesn’t slide off.

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Vibes hi-fidelity earplugs

Best: For invisibility

Rating: 8.5/10

While you can still see them in your eyes, these were some of the most subtle earplugs we’ve tried thanks to its minimalist design. The tips were soft and comfy and came in three different sizes for you to find the perfect fit. Do be careful when trying them out though, as the shape of these earplugs makes it easy to push them too far into the ear channel if you’ve chosen a fit that’s too small. But once they’re in, the sound is filtered nicely and reduced by 15dB. We did find them more fidgety to remove as the material on the ends is a little slippery.

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Eargasm high fidelity earplugs

Best: Unboxing experience

Rating: 8/10

Who says purchasing hearing protection has to be a boring experience? We enjoyed how much effort Eargasm has put in its branding with a light blue box with magnetic strip and matching instruction card. That said, in the end it’s all about performance and this pair did the job well, reducing the sound level by 16dB. While they already come in two sizes, they were still a little big for us, but the brand also offers a smaller earplugs set. You can also upgrade to special editions for a funkier coloured case and different colour filter.

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Flare isolate ear protectors

Best: Foam earplugs

Rating: 7.5/10

We weren’t a big fan of the design of these, as the aluminium stick kind of made it seem like a bad-looking piercing once inserted. We also found its foam cover was quite a rough material compared to the silicon options we’ve tried. That said, we could still wear them comfortably for multiple hours and they do offer a great filter and can reduce noise by up to 32dB. It also came in both a standard and large size and with a little mesh pouch to keep them in and at under £15, it’s a great budget option.

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EarDial hi-fi invisible earplugs

Best: Mobile app combination

Rating: 8/10

While other earbuds in this round-up came with multiple ear tip sizes, these only came in one. But they do fit snugly and we wore them comfortably for hours on end. These aren’t “invisible” like the brand claims, but as they’re relatively small we could actually barely see them when wearing. And they filtered the sound well, with 11dB reduction.

The coolest feature is the mobile app you can download, which will tell you the sound level around you and how long you can safely stay there. The bullet-shaped keychain case it came with was tiny and on the one hand we appreciated this, as it didn’t make our set of keys huge, but on the other hand it was a little fidgety to take them out and put back in again.

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Blox xperience reusable earplugs

Best: For a rave

Rating: 8/10

After over four hours of use, these still felt really comfortable. Blox’s earplugs don’t come with different size options, but the three ring tip should make them suitable for most people. We found them to be a snug fit. These come in a bright yellow and pink and should glow in the dark when used in UV light. Unfortunately, we weren’t in a situation to try this out but it does sound very funky. They filtered sound nicely while reducing levels with around 19dB.

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Earpeace music hi-fi hearing protection

Best: For those who lose things

Rating: 8/10

We thought this came with three different sizes of tips, but it turned out it were only two sizes and you got a third earplug for both of them. This means you’ll have a spare if you drop one and can’t find it, which is handy. As the filter is not actually red (as it seems like on the packaging) but see-through, you just might need it. These earplugs performed just as well as others in this round-up, filtering out exactly what they should do while keeping the music you’re listening to clear and reducing sound levels by 19dB. We also liked the silver hard-case key chain they came with.

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