While parents are often very diligent in wearing hearing protection when they're riding a lawnmower or enjoying loud music, it's easy to forget that your children's ears are sensitive too. In fact, a child's hearing is more sensitive than an adults and far more susceptible to damage. In the US, it's estimated that 12% of children between 6 and 19 have some form of permanent, noise-based hearing damage.
For children, hearing protection should be considered a must in all loud situations. Particularly look for environments where noise exposure is loud, though not considered damaging. For example: live sporting matches or the cinema, where most adults don't wear hearing protection, are prime opportunities for hearing damage for sensitive children's ears. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. They can still enjoy it through a set of muffs!
In this guide, we're going to outline a few top performers from the recently expanding range of children's earmuffs. A few guidelines for finding the right solution for your child:
- For babies and toddlers, look for a baby safe set of muffs. These should ideally have no sharp edges or anything that they can cut or scratch themselves on. In addition, they should be designed with no loose or detachable parts — to prevent choking.
- Always check the age range on the muff. If you suspect your child’s head is big or small, try and find a set of muffs that are adjustable to give the best possible chance of an effective fit that will last through a growth spurt.
- Ensure an adequate seal, it should be fitted such that the muffs are flush with your child’s head to ensure they benefit from the hearing protection.
Here are some of the best children’s ear muffs:
$27.95 (available in Mint, Pink, and Yellow)
The Joey is a strong, passive hearing protection solution that’s ultra comfortable and designed for babies aged between 3 months and 3 years of age. It’s got padded components, including a padded head strap and soft cups on the ears, to ensure a comfortable seal that remains soft even for extended wear.
All the materials are hypoallergenic and baby safe: there are no detachable components or sharp edges, making this great particularly for babies with active and searching hands. It’s rated to SNR 22dB, which makes this a great medium strength set of baby protection that can safely soften live sports, concerts, and movies without reducing your baby’s awareness. They will still enjoy the excitement, just at a lower, safer volume.
It comes in three different colours, Mint, Pink, and Yellow, along with free decorative stickers to help you distinguish your baby’s set. A carrying case keeps it safe when not in use.
$24.95 (eight colours available)
The next level up for infant hearing protection is the Banz, which offers an NRR of 31dB — appropriate for higher levels of noise exposure (though don’t take that as a challenge!) An adjustable body allows you to extend or retract the ear cups, which allows you to find an appropriate size for comfortable and secure fitting. Like the Joey, they have a padded head strap, which minimises any friction or pressure on a sensitive baby’s scalp. The Banz Baby set is described as being appropriate for “newborns through 24 months and up”, but we wouldn’t recommend muffs for the youngest babies — the head is still quite sensitive — though they’re a great option through early childhood.
As with all baby optimised products, they are designed to minimise danger. No protruding parts, foam filled cushions that minimise uncomfortable squeezes, and a super lightweight body to prevent excessive weight on the baby’s head and neck. Coming in eight (!) colours, there’s a large variety of stylising options — perfect if you have a few babies to protect.
$29.95 (available in Pink, Blue, Onyx, and Silver)
The main feature that distinguishes a kids ear muff from one that’s for babies is a wider telescoping set of ear cups that allows for a wider range of fits. A typical pair of kids ear muffs will be suitable for a child from age 3 upwards, all the way to the start of their growth spurt in puberty. The Banz Kids is similar to the Joey in terms of sound profile, blocking out a medium degree of noise (around 24 decibels) making it a good solution for sound sensitive kids at school, at live music or festivals, or just for wear when they want to reduce their exposure to external stimuli.
Like the baby model, they still retain a soft padding with foam cushioning on the ear cups. Telescoping ear cups expand to suit all head sizes, with each set weighing only 190 grams — among the lightest pieces of hearing protection available and suitable particularly for active little kids.
$44.95 (available in Pink, Mint, Yellow, Blue)
Alpine remain one of the most popular hearing protection brands in Australia for the quality of their filter, the comfort of their tips, and the precision of their engineering. Alpine fans are brand loyal for a reason. The Muffy — a set of premium kids muffs — is a break from their traditional ear plugs, but it retains the same comfort and quality.
The Muffy is recommended for children aged 5 to 16 years. It’s able to achieve this wide variety of fits through a high quality flexible headband with telescoping ear cups. A single set, properly taken care of, will fit comfortably and securely throughout your kid’s entire childhood. With a 25 SNR rating, it’s expected to block about 25 decibels when properly fitted — this makes it great for helping sensory overload for children with autism or sensory processing disorder. In addition, it works as a great general use hearing protection solution: kids can wear it at live sport, concerts, firework displays — even car and motorcycling races! Since it’s also geared to adolescents and high school aged teens, the Muffy has some utility too as a study muff: put it on in the library and watch those disruptive noises disappear.
They are made of a skin-friendly material, great for sensitive skin, and also have a wipe clean outer-layer, which keeps them clean and fresh for repeated use. The Muffy is very slim when worn, with a collapsible, lightweight body that makes them easily stuffed into a backpack and transportable. The Protect&Go carry case keeps the muffs secure and safe — great for the chaos that happens in a child’s locker and bag. It comes in four colours (Pink, Mint, Yellow, and Blue) and is designed with the appearance-conscious kid in mind, these look like an ordinary set of headphones and are great particularly for kids who might be self conscious about ear muffs.
What about ear plugs?
Not all children want the bulk and size of a set of ear muffs, some may prefer ear plugs as a solution to their noise sensitivity. The Alpine Pluggies ($32.95) is a really popular, reusable and multi-purpose children’s plug that works as hearing protection, as water protection for showering or swimming lessons, as well as a focus plug for mitigating distraction in class. It blocks up to 30dB, with specially designed filters that allow for conversation to remain audible. Suitable for kids aged 3 to 12, the Pluggies are a great alternative for kids who don’t want muffs. As an added bonus, they can be combined with muffs for blocking out the loudest noises.
A good set of ear muff hearing protection will pay dividends in ensuring your child’s ear health throughout their life. Hearing damage early in life will only ever compound down the track, which makes it all the more important to protect your child’s ears early and consistently. A set of baby or kid safe ear muffs will do a good job of dampening the most damaging noises, while still retaining their awareness and enjoyment. They’re a comfortable and cool looking accessory, too!