For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) or Sensory Processing conditions, hearing protection can be a valuable tool, capable of dampening the disruptive noise of everyday life and making noisy urban experiences manageable. In this guide, we’ll go through a variety of hearing protection options, from subtle ear plugs providing everyday protection to full-scale earmuffs for when you really want to turn off the noise. We’ll also include guides for young adults and children, including smaller scale products appropriate for small ears.
Everyday Wear: Reusable Ear plugs
Reusable ear plugs have sound ratings between 10 and 32. The higher the number, the higher the level of protection. If you were working on a loud worksite, you would want something above 30 to ensure your hearing is not damaged. Alternatively, if you are simply trying to dampen the amount of sound on your daily commute, a lower number is appropriate.
It’s important to note that you will very rarely get a ‘perfect’ noise cancelling solution: hearing protection can go a long way to dampening out all noise, but there will always be some residual leak. Our goal is to determine the right hearing protection to minimise that disruption.
A set of reusable ear plugs is a good everyday solution. They are subtle, capable of being worn invisibly inside the ear. Most importantly, they dampen noise without undermining your awareness of your surroundings. They’re suitable for commuting through the city, wearing in a loud office or apartment block, or just having on when you want to focus on what you’re reading or doing.
The MusicMate has an SNR (or ‘Single Number Rating) of 23. This means it’s going to block out, on average, about 23 decibels of noise. These ear plugs are designed for use in concerts, which means it still allows you to hear your surroundings clearly, while also reducing the noise.
The MusicMate is made of a soft and comfortable material, designed to minimise itch or discomfort in the sensitive ear canal. Because of this softness, you can wear it all day without issue. It’s designed to be reused and can be washed.
As mentioned, we recommend a pair of reusable ear plugs with a rating of 23 or below for everyday wear. This is because you want to remain aware of your surroundings, without being exposed to harmful higher volumes.
It is made of clear plastic, it is almost invisible while being worn, so is particularly useful for individuals who wish to wear their ear plugs discreetly. It comes with a carry case and keychain so you can always keep track of your set.
Ear Plugs For Kids
For children, we recommend the Alpine Pluggies Kids Earplug. It’s made of hypoallergenic material (no silicone!) and comes in a smaller size, appropriate for a child’s narrow ear canals. It’s a multi-use earplug: it works in the pool to keep water out of your child’s ear, works in loud music or working environment, and is even recommended for assisting a child retain focus at school.
As an alternative, the Earjobs MusicMate also now comes in a children’s size, with the same features and benefits as the adult model. Like the adult model, it’s made of a subtle clear plastic, which is good particularly for children who are self-conscious about the prospect of wearing ear plugs in the playground with their friends.
Heavy Duty: Earmuffs
Sometimes, you want a stronger hearing solution designed to really cut out external noise. If ear plugs are not doing enough, we recommend a pair of earmuffs for heavier duty protection. In contrast to ear plugs, earmuffs are quite large, they generally block a greater range of sounds at a higher level and are typically used on noisy work sites. You have to be careful to remain aware of your surroundings while wearing a pair of earmuffs as they really do dampen the majority of noise.
As an added note, you can wear earmuffs in combination with ear plugs for the strongest sound blocking. To calculate the Single Number Rating of this combination, add five to the stronger piece of hearing protection. For example: if I were wearing a pair of Earjobs MusicMate (SNR 23) with a set of 3M Peltor Optime earmuffs (SNR 33), I would add five to the rating of the earmuffs. The combined power would be SNR 38.
3M™ Peltor™ H10A Optime™ 105 Earmuff ($54.60)
One of the strongest pieces of over ear hearing protection we stock, the Optime is expected to block on average about 33dB of sound. It has a ‘double-shell’ design, a foam inner layer connects two separate noise dampening cups, designed to block out the greatest range of high and low frequency noises. The cushions are filled with a combination of liquid and foam, designed to remain comfortable despite the weight of the earmuff.
For younger children, we recommend the Peltor™ KIDS Ear Muffs, which are appropriate for kids up to the age of 7. Like the Optime, these are heavy duty, expected to block out about 27 decibels on average of sound. It comes in neon green and neon pink, which are good for keeping tabs on your child at a distance, and is designed without protruding parts to avoid catching.
If you’re looking for a baby solution, ear plugs are not recommended for the youngest children since they can irritate their sensitive ears. Instead, the Earjobs brand Joey® Noise Cancelling Baby Earmuff ($27.95) is designed for children between 3 months and 3 years. It has an SNR of 22 and is made of hypoallergenic, baby-safe materials.
Ear Plug Alternative? Silicone putty!
Particularly for individuals with sensory processing conditions, even the most comfortable pair of ear plugs can be inappropriate. Instead, consider a pair of silicone ear plugs. These can be shaped across the opening of the ear, providing the same degree of sound dampening without having to protrude into the sensitive ear canal. Unlike reusable ear plugs, silicone ear plugs have to be replaced. You can usually use them between 5 and 7 times before they begin to lose their stick.
Our most popular silicone earplug is the Earjobs™ Silicone Putty. It comes in three different packages: a 6 pair standard pack, a 12 pair value pack, and an 18 pair family pack. As we described above, Silicone ear plugs can also be combined with earmuffs for maximum protection.
A Final Note
For autistic people, the right pair of ear plugs can be a huge benefit in terms of quality of life and comfort. Everyone is different, but the guide above should represent a good starting point in terms of identifying the right hearing protection for you or your child. For individuals on the NDIS, funding is available to purchase hearing protection -- just speak to your provider.
Our customer service team operates Monday through Friday and are happy to help with any questions you may have about our product range. Simply shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be able to provide free tailored support and guidance for you no matter your circumstance.