Top 7 Best Electronic Earplugs in 2017
Traditional ear plugs are usually made from foam, silicone or wax. They are considered ‘passive’, since they block out all noise, no matter soft or loud. While they may be cheap and relatively effective for hearing protection, they make poor choices for users who need to have a high level of situational awareness. For example, hunters need to be able to hear their surroundings in order to catch game, but at the same time, protect their hearing from explosive gun shots. The same goes for police or military personnel, who have to communicate with their teams in a tactical setting.
Thankfully, as design and technologies for ear plugs continue to evolve, the market has introduced ‘active’ ear plugs – namely, electronic ones that can control the amount of noise reduced or amplify them accordingly. They do so by combining standard passive ear plugs with an electronic circuit, usually consisting of a microphone, speakers and a pair of transducers. This allows for the plugs to transmit sounds in the ‘safe’ range below 85dB, such as conversations or phones ringing, but muting out impulse noises.
Although they are much more expensive than conventional ear plugs, some users prefer to go for the best electronic earplugs, thanks to their ‘smart’ ability which only kicks in when needed. Since it’s not a small investment, as the price point tends to be in the $200 and above , it is wise to consider these factors before making a purchase:
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)
Just like passive ear plugs, electronic ear plugs also come with a noise reduction rating (NRR). This is required by law before they can be sold on the market. Most plugs for shooting offer a range between 20dB at a minimum, to a maximum of 33dB, the highest level of protection. With electronic ear plugs, these levels can vary between the high (for protecting against sudden loud noises) to lower levels (for natural environment or ‘good’ sounds) instead of a fixed level like with standard earplugs.
Comfort and Fit
The plugs need to be able to be worn for long hours at a time, so they should fit comfortably in the ears. No point having a plug that works but ends up leaving the ears sore and irritated. Electronic plugs usually come with many different ear tip sizes made from foam or silicone, and these tend to be more flexible than traditional ear plugs.
Consider if the batteries are rechargeable, or if you will constantly need to replace them. Some plugs come with a switch while others can only be switched off by removing the batteries.
Purpose of Use
Since they are expensive, electronic earplugs are often recommended for those who are regularly exposed to loud noise, whether from work or sports. If you’re a casual shooter, is the hefty price tag worth it if you’re only going to shoot a few times a year during hunting season? However, if you’re a competitive shooter who goes for regular contests, or a military personnel on the field, you might look into getting a pair as a long term investment.
In this list, we have included electronic ear plugs for various applications, including shooting and hunting, tactical, industrial and music.
TOP 7 BEST ELECTRONIC EARPLUGS – COMPARISON TABLE
|1. 3M Peltor TEP-100 Tactical Digital Ear Plugs||Portable Charging Compartment||$$$||4.2|
|2. Etymotic Research GSP15 GunSport PRO High-Definition Electronic Earplugs||Designed for Gun sport enthusiasts||$$$||4.0|
|3. Etymotic Research MusicPRO High-Fidelity Electronic Musicians Earplugs||Provides either 9-dB or 15-dB protection||$$$||4.0|
|4. Hush Smart Ear Plugs by Hush||Long lasting 5 to 8 hours of soothing sounds||$$$||4.0|
|5. Westone Defend Ear Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs||Provides hearing protection of 30 dB||$$$||4.0|
|6. SportEar Ghost Stryke Ear Plugs||Protects up to 30 decibels||$$$||3.7|
|7. SoundGear Electronic Hearing Protection||Shooter plugs, Hunter plugs, high noise impact plugs||$$||3.7|
Lightweight but sturdy, the 3M Peltor TEP-100 Tactical Digital Ear Plugs can be used for various fields, including law enforcement, military, tactical, repair and operations, shooting and hunting. They are able to withstand harsh conditions, such as temperatures of up to 122 degrees Farenheit and have an NRR of 23dB.
Aside from hearing protection, the plugs also help to increase situational awareness. This makes them useful in challenging environments, where the user needs protection from loud noises such as gunfire; while still being able to hear softer, environmental noises. Sound-level technology uses microphones in the plugs to detect noise; amplifying lower volume sounds such as voices, but blocking out loud and steady impulse noise such as gunfire or machinery. The plugs are generally more effective in allowing sounds such as warning signals or approaching vehicles to filter through as compared to traditional ear plugs.
Built-in with an intuitive single button operation, users can turn the unit on, off and select high or normal volume settings at just the press of a switch, without having to remove the unit from the ears. They can last up to 16 hours of continuous use, thanks to rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Users can charge on the go with a portable charging station powered by a USB cable port or 3AA alkaline batteries.
Steel clips fasten the plugs securely to make sure they are in contact for charging. Also comes with an optional tangle-free lanyard cord. For a better fit, the four pairs of eartips come in different sizes. The plugs’ design with a corner radius helps soften the contact zone with the ears,providing a more comfortable wearing experience. They work well with most headgear such as helmets, face shields and eye-wear.
The TEP-100 does have its disadvantages: strong winds outdoors might affect sound quality. Some users have also found a short delay in sound transmission, making it difficult for them to gauge auditory depth and perception.
Suitable for professional shooters, guides and instructors, as well as gun sport enthusiasts and hunters, the GSP-15 electronic ear plugs help to protect against loud, continuous noise while allowing for natural sounds to filter through when no background noise is detected. Equipped with Etymotic ACCU Technology, the plugs carry high-definition balanced armature drivers, microphones with high sensitivity and K-Amp signal processing with wide-dynamic-range compression.
Users can switch between modes at the flip of a switch. Automatic Hearing Protection mode kicks in with a 15dB adaptive attenuation whenever noise exceeds safe levels, with an NRR of up to 25dB. Meanwhile, the Hearing Enhancement mode amplifies sounds by five times, allowing users to hear environmental sounds such as footfalls and conversations in crystal clear mode. This is particularly useful for hunting or tactical applications, as it improves distance detection for higher situational awareness. Both modes have blast protection against sudden gunfire sounds. The plugs also work well against noise from industrial machinery and vehicles. Fitted with ACCU-Fit ear tips for comfort and a good seal, the plugs have a triple-flanged design which sits snugly in the ears; without interfering with shooting glasses or headgear.
Unlike some traditional foam ear plugs which have to be squished into the ear and allowed to expand, these are easy to insert and remove. They can be worn for long hours, as some users reported having them in for up to eight hours during competitive shooting contests, without experiencing discomfort.
Each set comes with a durable neck cord, a protective case with padded interior and latch for safekeeping, zinc air batteries, cleaning tools and filters. The drawback is that they are small, so replacing batteries can be quite a challenge. The switches on the plug are also tiny, so those with bigger hands might find it hard to press.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Etymotic Research GSP15 GunSport PRO High-Definition Electronic Earplugs>>
Musicians, DJs and sound producers need hearing protection just as much, if not more, than people like competitive shooters or those working in construction, due to the constant exposure to loud noise or high-pitched notes. At the same time, they need to be able to hear the music that they’re creating.
The solution is to invest in a pair of good electronic musicians earplugs, like the Etymotic Research Music Pro. Designed to provide full fidelity for inputs up to 120dB, the plugs protects the user’s hearing from loud percussive sounds such as a cymbal strike. Adaptive noise reduction capabilities adjust accordingly to changing sound levels, offering anywhere from 9 to 15dB of hearing protection, depending on mode.
When not detecting sudden impact noise or loud sustained music scores, the electronic circuitry allows users to hear naturally at safe sound levels. This makes them ideal for music teachers, performers, directors and even audiences.
There are two modes of operation: Natural Hearing Mode, with 15dB sound reduction, or Enhanced Hearing Mode, which provides 6dB gain for soft sounds and then 9dB protection when sound exceeds safe levels. BOth modes protect against impact sound.
The plugs come with an assortment of ACCU-Fit eartips, a flexible neck cord so users will not need to remove them completely in between jam sessions or shows, a filter tool and ACCU-filters, cleaning tool, zinc air batteries and user manual, all in a protective casing. The downside: while they are good at filtering to produce clear mids and highs, the bass seems to be badly muted, according to reviews by several users.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Etymotic Research MusicPRO High-Fidelity Electronic Musicians Earplugs>>
Almost all electronic ear plugs are used for shooting and hunting, tactical or industrial applications. The Hush Smart Ear Plugs by Hush are the only electronic ear plugs on this list that are used for sleeping. Most of the time, traditional foam or wax plugs have been sufficient for many people to get some shut eye. The Hush takes it one step further.
Dubbing itself the world’s first smart earplugs, they are a mix of good ol’ fashioned passive hearing protection with new technology. Passive Noise Reduction and Noise Masking technology is combined with foam material to provide an NRR of up to 30dB. The plugs are designed not just to keep out snoring or loud and annoying environmental noises,, but have also included an in-built sound machine which plays music and soothing sounds to help users get better sleep.
The device has a list of 15 tracks, including sounds of nature such as rain falling and crickets, as well as white noise. The plugs allow users to connect wirelessly through a smartphone app, and use this app to adjust notification filters allowing ‘cues’ to wake them up, such as personal alarms or phone calls. The personal alarm only rings in the user’s ears, so users can be rest assured that it will not disturb the baby sleeping in the next room. A thin and wireless profile provides a seamless, ergonomic design that follows the shape of the wearer’s ears for maximum comfort.
Each pair comes with nine different sizes of silicone and foam ear tips so users can try them on for the best fit. However, they might not fit comfortably for side sleepers or people with smaller ears. The Hush comes in a compact charging case which doubles as a charger to provide three on-the-go full charges. Some reviewers have complained that the batteries do not last a full eight hours as claimed. The product is still quite new on the market, so it might take some time to iron out the kinks – but in the meantime, these plugs are for those who mean serious business when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
The Westone brand have long been a mainstay in providing custom digital hearing protection. Their DefendEar plugs are designed exclusively for shooting sports, hunting and outdoor recreation. With an NRR of 30dB, they have one of the highest hearing protection levels in the range, providing good coverage against the blast of gun shots. The built-in electronic circuit recognizes loud noises and muffles them to a safe level. At the same time, unique digital amplification technology allows for low level ambient sounds to be heard clearly, amplifying them up to 86dB. This is a good pair of plugs for outdoor enthusiasts or hunters who need to hear their surroundings in order to catch prey. At indoor shooting ranges, users will still be able to hear their instructors and carry on normal conversations without having to take the plugs out. Meanwhile, wind reduction capabilities ensure that loud winds will not interfere with your session out in the field.
A discreet design means that they blend well into their surroundings: especially useful for hunters who need camouflage while hunting prey. The electronic parts can be removed for cleaning, upgrades and repairs. Each set has right and left color-coded ear plugs, two spare wax guards, a brush with a magnet and a zip pouch storage cast. Users can choose the best fit for their ears with five different-sized quality foam tips.
One drawback of the WeStone DefendEar plugs is that they do not have an off switch. This drains batteries fast, since users can’t turn them off during downtime periods. Thankfully, the li-ion batts used are cheap and can be replaced with little cost.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Westone Defend Ear Digital Shooter Hearing Protection Ear Plugs>>
If you’re looking for high quality performance electronic ear plugs, then the SportEar Ghost Stryke Ear Plugs might just be the pair for you. Offering both sound enhancement and hearing protection capabilities, they are small, lightweight and easier to manoeuvre around in compared to bulky ear muffs. Recommended for use in tactical, safety, auto-racing, sporting events and industrial applications, the plugs are designed to protect the user from damaging loud noises, whilst helping them to maintain an optimal hearing advantage.
With an NRR of 30dB, the plugs have an automatic and simultaneous hearing protection mechanism kicks in once the plugs detect anything above hazardous noise levels of over 85dB. Meanwhile, in hearing amplification mode, ambient noises are amplified up to six times the normal range, allowing users to detect light footfalls and gauge distance and depth of a target. A built-in volume control switch allows users to turn sounds up and down with the simple flick.
Foam and silicone tips feel soft and comfortable in the ears for long hours of wear. For those with larger or smaller ear canals, fret not – the Ghost’s SecureFit extenders come in three sizes for a proper fit and seal. One reviewer, who works in aviation, commented that they sit inside the ear snugly and has never fallen out. Each set comes with four zinc air batteries and cleaning brush in a handy carrying case.
One flaw with the Ghost Stryke is the short battery life, as that they do not have an off setting. Units are automatically turned on once batteries are inserted, and can only be turned ‘off’ by removing them completely. This can be somewhat impractical as the batteries are very small and can be easily lost. The plugs are also not recommended for firing with higher calibre weapons in an indoor shooting range.
Available in colors such as pink, red and black. Hunters or outdoor shooters might want to go for the more discreet, flesh-toned beige.
Best used for shooting or operating loud tools or machinery, SoundGear Electronic Hearing Protection are professional plugs designed to block out high impact noises: whether its for reducing noise from a motorcycle ride, or while using a chainsaw or jack hammer.
The inbuilt electronic circuit mutes out the impulse noises such as gunshots and machinery clanking, but amplifies normal speech slightly so that users will still be able to have conversations or take instructions at the shooting range. Users have remarked that voices and environmental sounds come through clearly at a normal volume. The plugs will automatically suppress noises at 80 dB and above. With an NRR of 25dB and 8dB of gain, they provide good coverage for the ears, especially in industrial applications.
The plugs come with small and large tips to fit differently sized ears. For maximum effectiveness, users should create a good seal by pushing the plugs in and ensuring that the flanges have properly covered the ear canal.
Each set includes eight batteries, a carrying case, cleaning brush, instruction manual and storage box. Batteries are easy to install and remove, but should be taken out when not in use as they do not have an off button and keeping them in will drain the power quickly. Their small and ergonomic design fits nicely into the ear, and can be removed by pulling small tabs at the end of each stem. They are not showy and look more like regular earplugs than high-tech ones. One thing that we noticed is that they tend to amplify the user’s own speech, which may take some getting used to.