As parents become more concerned about the effects of our increasingly noisy environment on their little one’s hearing, the number of ear protection devices has grown significantly.
Which products deserve a spot on your short list? Our picks for the best baby ear protection can help you narrow the field.
Our Top Picks at a Glance
Note: There’s a lot more information below but clicking the above links will take you to current prices, further information and customer reviews on Amazon.
Loud Noises Can Permanently Damage Hearing
Sound waves create vibrations that travel to the inner ear where they enter the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure that contains thousands of minuscule hairs. The hairs bend when sound vibrations hit them, and these bending movements convert the vibrations into electrical impulses that travel through the auditory nerve to the brain.
These hair cells can be vulnerable to damaging loud noises. They typically stand up straight and bend in response to sound waves, but when the waves are very strong, prolonged or repeated frequently, the hairs can remain “stuck” in a bent position where they are unable to generate electrical impulses.
In many instances, the hairs will return to their normal positions after they have had the chance to recover from the loud noise. However, if the damage is severe enough, these hair cells can die and lead to permanent hearing loss.
What is a Dangerous Sound Level?
Sounds levels are measured in units called decibels (dB). Each decibel reflects how much pressure the sound wave carries. Sounds over 80 decibels have the potential to damage the delicate components in the human ear.
The higher the decibel level, the less time it takes to acquire hearing loss. For example, a firecracker exploding at close range can cause permanent hearing damage immediately. Prolonged or frequent exposure to sounds that are less intense but still loud, like a lawnmower, can also cause damage.
Why Ear Protection is Important for Children
According to the World Health Organization, more than half of all childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes. While some of these causes include illness and acute injuries, loud noises are also a major contributor.
It can be easy to think that since kids in previous generations grew up without ear protection and still have decent hearing, today’s kids will be fine without it as well. However, the culture has changed significantly over the last couple of decades. Increased traffic, construction, air travel and entertainment events are just a few examples. Additionally, don’t overlook technology: Even young children can be exposed to television, movies, video games and music at loud volumes at almost all times.
The CDC reports that almost 15% of children between the ages of six and nineteen have a noticeable degree of hearing loss. Given the popularity of earbuds in children and teens, it is wise to do what you can to protect your child’s hearing while they are young and you have a greater level of control.
Teaching your child from an early age that their hearing is delicate and worth protecting may also help them build good habits that will last for the rest of their life.
Additional Benefits of Using Ear Protection
Reduce sound wave pressure. Children have smaller ear canals. As a result of this decreased surface area, sound waves put increased pressure on the eardrum and make noises sound even louder to your child. Ear protection devices filter sounds through at least one layer of foam, reducing the amount of irritating or dangerous pressure on your child’s eardrums.
Can increase your child’s enjoyment and engagement. Noise reducing devices not only help protect your child’s hearing, but they can also help make noisy events more enjoyable.
Most ear protection models don’t completely eliminate all sounds, and reducing just the dangerous or stressful noise input could help your child feel more relaxed.
Ear Protection Features to Look For
Noise Reduction Rating. A product’s noise reduction rating (NRR) reflects how much the device reduces noise levels. An NRR of 30 dB means that the device reduces sound by 30 decibels. The higher the rating number, the more noise the device blocks.
However, it’s important to remember that each device’s rating is assigned based on controlled laboratory testing, so the protection factor on an actual human in everyday conditions is likely to be lower.
Appropriate Size for Your Child. The earpieces need to form a seal all the way around your child’s ears to be effective, so make sure the product you choose is large enough to cover the outer ear completely.
Adjustability. Fit can significantly alter the device’s effectiveness, and products that feature multiple points of adjustment can help you get the best seal on your baby’s ears.
Many devices adjust to fit a wide range of head sizes, but make sure to check the manufacturer’s age recommendations for the specific product.
Comfortable Padding. Since the device fits snugly against your child’s face and head, look for generous padding that won’t irritate the skin. The ear cushions will probably collect skin oils, so a surface that is washable or wipeable is probably easier to clean.
What About Earplugs?
Earmuff styles are always recommended for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
Any type of ear protection that fits inside the ear canal is dangerous and likely to be ineffective in young children. These small products can easily become dislodged, fall out and present a choking hazard, so never use earplugs until your child is at least school-aged.
Additionally, don’t use any materials like a small wad of tissue or a cotton ball as a makeshift set of earplugs. Besides being a choking risk, these items are not meant to fit inside the ear canal and could cause your child’s earwax to become impacted.
Places Where You May Want to Consider Using Ear Protection
You don’t have to take your baby to a loud rock concert to encounter noises that could cause damage or just be scary. These are a few places where using ear protection could help:
- Fireworks displays
- Festivals or special events
- Air shows
- Sporting events
- Motorsport shows or races
- Amusement parks or carnivals
- Live music venues
- Home projects requiring power tools
- Busy city streets
- Movie theaters
Our Choices – a Closer Look at the Best Baby Ear Protection
Baby Banz Earmuffs
These earmuffs from Baby Banz offer an NRR of 31dB, which is the highest rating available for earmuffs. Baby Banz offers its product in two sizes: newborn through two years, and one for two- to four-year-olds.
The generously-sized earpieces easily cover your child’s entire outer ear, and the large size every distributes weight and helps reduce pinching and pressure points.
Soft padding around the earpieces as well as on the headband makes these comfortable for your child to wear, even for long periods of time. The earpieces are easy to adjust with a sliding feature that lets you appropriately fit the product to your child’s head. However, the slider does not have any locking feature, and the earpieces could move.
Baby Banz offers a wide variety of solid colors and fun patterns, so you should be able to find one you like no matter what your favorite color or design. Some colors are also available with a Bluetooth feature for an extra charge, allowing these models to do double duty as a set of music headphones as well as a protective earmuff.
Since the Baby Banz device is highly effective, you may want to take them off your child in a semi-quiet location and allow your child to ease back into normal sounds slowly.
Ems for Kids Baby Earmuffs
Whereas most earmuff styles use a tension headband that fits over the top of your child’s head, the EMS version features a unique fabric head strap that fits across your child’s forehead and fastens at the back. This design distributes pressure more evenly and reduces the chances of pinching or pressure points, making the EMS especially useful for a newborn’s still-hardening skull bones. One downside to this design is its potential to slip down the forehead.
These earmuffs are a set of three separate items: one head strap and two earpieces. The detachable design makes this product readily transportable and very lightweight. The head strap is washable and simple to adjust with a velcro closure. The earpieces have large open clips on the on their outer shell that slip easily onto the head strap. There is no locking feature, though, and the earpieces could slide out of place.
The earpieces are available in white and black, and you have your choice of several colors and patterns for the head strap.
The earpieces carry a 27 dB NRR and feature two layers of sound-reducing foam. The extra-deep design may make for a tight fit in some baby carriers or car seats.
3M Peltor Sport Earmuffs
Even though these Peltor earmuffs are not specifically designed for very young children, they offer great adjustability and can usually fit toddlers very comfortably.
The headband is padded on the top portion and is easy to lengthen or shorten. The lower portions of both sides of the headband have strong wires that attach to the earpieces with hinges. This design allows you to get a comfortable and effective fit in a sleeker form than some of the other options.
In addition to the headband padding, the Peltor’s ear cushions contain a gel-like substance that lets your child wear these earmuffs comfortably even for long periods of time.
With a 22 dB NRR, these earmuffs don’t provide the maximum level of protection. However, they are great at allowing your child to still hear most of what’s going on around them while softening particularly loud noises.
You are definitely more limited in color selection with the Peltor, with solid pink and black being the available choices.
Pro Fo Sho Baby Earmuffs
This product’s design specifically has young babies in mind. The Pro Fo Sho features metal-free construction, and the headband has a generous amount of padding that should comfortable even if your baby has no hair.
The earpiece cushions are large and distribute pressure evenly. The foam is soft and easily conforms to the contours fo your child’s face to achieve a good seal.
Rather than a hinge suspension, the Pro Fo Sho relies on its tapered shape to generate sufficient tension to stay in place. The earpieces angle sharply inwards at the bottom, and the typical baby’s head is wide enough to get a snug fit.
The Pro Fo Sho earpieces have a unique rectangular shape that gives them an extra bit of visual flair. Adjustment settings are on a slider on the outer shell of the earpieces.
You can move them up or down to customize the fit, and each setting locks into place.
The Pro Fo Sho offers an NRR of 26 dB and is available in solid blue or pink color options.
Pro Ears ReVo
This is the junior offering in the ReVo line, and some of the child-friendly features include increased padding, all-plastic construction and a looser hand band tension.
One of this product’s best features is the padding. All padded surfaces have a leather-like surface that is easy to wipe down, and each cushion is detachable and replaceable.
The super-soft ear cushions self-mold to individual facial features and make getting a safe seal quick and easy. This also gives the ReVo the ability to fit a wide range of sizes from infants to school-age children. Not to be outdone, the headband also features a generous amount of padding.
Hinges on the sides of the earpieces attach to the adjustable headband. The earpieces are a little bigger than some models specifically aimed at very young children, and they will take up some extra headspace in a car seat or baby carrier.
The ReVo has an NRR of 25 dB and is available in several solid neon colors and patterns.
These earmuffs from BEBE come in two sizes, one for infants and the other for toddlers.
This product features a soft fabric pad on the underside of the adjustable headband and a colored PVC material on the top. At its smallest setting, the infant BEBE is 10 inches from one earpiece to the other, and the toddler size is eleven inches.
If you travel frequently or plan to have your child use protection on the go, this product might be a great choice for you. The side-hinge design allows these earmuffs to collapse into a compact ball that can fit easily into a diaper bag or glove box.
The BEBE’s ear cushions are a little stiffer than some others, so it may be a bit of a challenge to get a good seal. The surface on the ear cushions has a slightly shiny finish that you can wipe clean.
The BEBE earmuffs carry an NRR of 25 dB. The infant size is a silver color, and the toddler size comes in ivory, jade and pink solid colors.
While each of these products does a great job on certain features, the Baby Banz has it all and comes in as our favorite option.
Safety and effectiveness are the top priorities, and the Baby Banz delivers with the highest available earmuff NRR and precise adjustability to get a great seal.
The Baby Banz also has your child’s comfort in mind. Soft padding on the ear cushions and headband allow your child to easily wear the device for long periods of time, and the large size of the earpieces helps reduce pressure points.
Whether you have a newborn or a toddler, the two size options should have you (and your baby’s ears) covered.
Lastly, the wide variety of bright solid colors and fun prints also ensure that your baby makes both a safety and a fashion statement.