Best noise-cancelling headphones for autism

Ear defenders

by Adejumoke Ilori |
Updated on

Ear defenders are helpful for children with autism, and those who are sensitive to noise and specific sounds. Some examples of sounds that can trigger those with sensory concerns include vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, the sound of sirens - such as police or ambulances - crying babies, and loud music. Ear protectors are great for blocking out the echoes of different sounds, or when your child is feeling uncomfortable.

According to the NHS: “Being autistic means your brain works in a different way from other people, so some people need support to help them with certain things. Many autistic children use a set of behaviours to help them manage their emotions and make sense of their environment. Sometimes they're done for enjoyment. Some things that can be linked to these behaviours include being over- or under-sensitive to external stimuli.”

Best at a glance:

• Best overall noise-cancelling headphones for autism: Snug Kids Ear Defenders - Buy now on Amazon, £24.99
• Best noise-cancelling headphones for rotating pads: RIIKUNTEK Kids Ear Defender - buy now on Amazon, £16.19
Best noise-cancelling headphones for price: Alpine Muffy Kidy Ear Defender - buy now on Boots, £24.95

The National Autistic Society adds: “Autistic people may experience over- or under-sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light, colours, temperatures, or pain. For example, they may find certain background sounds like music in a restaurant, which other people ignore or block out, unbearably loud or distracting. This can cause anxiety or even physical pain.”

If your child uses or may benefit from using ear defenders to help them manage new or noisy environments, we've chosen the best noise-cancelling headphones for children.

Best noise-cancelling headphones with adjustable headband

ear defenders
Price: $29.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$29.99View offer

Designed for kids, these premium ear defenders have been made with soft materials, are easy to clean, and extremely comfortable to wear. 

In terms of comfort and durability, one mum tester said: "I bought two of the pink pair for my 6-year old. They fit fab and will last as she grows, as they fit me also. She has a few different ones and they are comfortable and do the job. She can still hear me when I talk to her, but it helps her with the background noise and keeps her clam in busy places."

With the adjustable headband, to help give your child a snug fit around their ear, they also come with a free travel bag to make taking them with you on the go much easier.

Pros

  • Included travel bag keeps the headphones clean and safe during travels 
  • Proven to reach an acoustic attenuation of up to 21dB 

Cons

  • Only 6 colours to choose from (blue, pink, formula 1, green, mint, yellow)

Best noise-cancelling headphones for portability

vanderfields ear defenders

Rrp: $23.99

Price: $18.99

The soft headband design and ear muffs grant more space around your little one’s ears, so they don't feel tight, while still blocking out loud sounds and protecting their hearing.

Completely portable and great in busy places, one mum said: "My little boy is almost 3 and we bought these ahead of firework night. He loves them! Often complained of noisy environments (hoover, hair/hand dryer etc) and these make it easier. He wants to wear them all the time. Great value for money, perfect for littles! Folds right up, small enough for a changing bag."

These toddler ear defenders are built for kids' adventures and will end up being the perfect companion for any road trip.

With their high-quality impact-resistant ABS cups, sturdy metal frame, and springy headband, these have been made to make your child feel comfortable.

Pros

  • Perfect portable ear defenders for your kids to explore the world without fear and worry
  • Provide 26dB SNR (20dB NRR) protection
  • Lots of pattern and colour options available

Cons

  • Some reviewers found them tricky to adjust

Best noise-cancelling headphones with detachable ear cushions

These multicoloured ear defenders are perfect for kids who have sound sensitivities to everyday sounds. 

The hearing protector assists in fading out loud noises so your little one won't miss out on days out any more. Available in a range of colours and patterns to suit your child’s taste, they'll love picking their favourite design.

Designed for babies, toddlers, children (6 months to 14 years old), and adults, parents loved how great these defenders were around different kinds of sounds; one mum tester said: "These are great, we take them with us everywhere. They fold up small and can be put on quickly when needed. We've used them for our 3 year old for muffling the sound of hand dryers, fireworks, tractor shows, lawnmowers, and vacuum cleaners. They don't cut out all sound so the child can still hear what you're saying, but they do muffle it and make sounds less harsh and more bearable. Our son has a lot more confidence going out knowing that he has these to hand if he needs them."

For the best experience, it's advised to clean or change the ear pads every two or three months.

Pros

  • NRR of 25dB
  • Bright orange headband and arty pattern stands out from others

Cons

  • Patterns on earmuffs may vary slightly

Best noise-cancelling headphones for toddlers

runteck ear defenders
Price: $15.99

 
These cool dinosaur ear defenders are suitable for children and teenagers between the ages of 3-16.

And, to make your child comfortable, the height of the ear pads can be adjusted on both sides to fit your little one’s head size, with both pads rotating 360° flexibly to fit the ear. 

Comfortable and great for any environment, one mum loved that these "ear defenders were well-made and great quality with a comfortable fit" for her two year old. She continued: "These were great for the next hockey season, as ice hockey can get super loud in the ice-rink arena. Now he can watch the game without the loud noises. No problem keeping them on his head either."

Designed with colourful and attractive dinosaur patterns, these ear defenders will help increase imagination and creativity skills, encouraging them to put on their earmuffs.

Pros

  • Adjustable for comfort
  • Pads rotate 360°
  • Fun dinosaur pattern ideal for younger children

Cons

  • Some reviews found them too tight
  • Older children might not like the dinosaur pattern

Best noise-cancelling headphones for range of colours

banz ear defenders

Rrp: $34.56

Price: $30.00
Alternative retailers
Target$29.99View offer
Walmart$30.00View offer
Best Buy$30.00View offer

These trendy earmuffs look amazing, and, most importantly, their category 4 rating will guard your child’s hearing from possibly harmful sounds.

Super easy to put on and comfortable to wear, these ear defenders also come in different colours and prints to suit every child’s individual style. 

Sturdy and child-friendly, the headband is adjustable, making it suitable for ages from newborn to 36 months. 

Adventure ready and protective, one mum liked the different colours that were available to choose from, and how perfect they were for her son during a trip away: "My son can have problems with loud noises, so I bought these to take to Disneyland. He wears them happily when he knows there will be a loud noise (fireworks) so they must be comfortable, they seem like they will last a long time and although they say up to 3, I do think they will last quite a bit longer! They nearly fit over my ears. They clearly block out noise because if he takes them off during a loud noise, he asks for them back on. We liked the offer of colours, and he was happy he could choose."

Pros

  • The ear cups slide up and down on the headband to fit a child up to 3 years of age
  • Soft cushioned ear cups

Cons

  • Some reviewers found them too small

Best noise-cancelling headphones for comfort

snug ear defenders
Price: $17.99

These Snug ear defenders have been created to be comfortable to wear, even for longer periods such as school days. Both ear pillows have plush padding to sit snuggly against the ears.

The adjustable headband fits all sizes from 6 months to an adult, and the lightweight design (they weigh just 180g) makes it super easy for days out and travelling. 

Strong enough to block out the loudest of noises, from gardening equipment to power tools, one grandparent said: "Both of my grandkids are autistic, but the younger one more so. They both love these, and the younger grandchild’s anxiety whilst shopping due to noise levels, is now quite comfortable and relaxed when out shopping and wearing these.” 

These ear defenders will help reduce noises from crowds while out in the park, the noise of a vacuum cleaner, or siblings playing in the next room.

Pros

  • Lightweight design is ideal for days out
  • One size fits from 6 months to adult
  • Available in a wide range of colours

Cons

  • None!

Best noise-cancelling headphones for loud events

If there's a special event coming up where you know there's bound to be noise, perhaps fireworks, loud music, or lots of people, these Hilka ear defenders are ideal.

These ear defenders are not only lightweight and adjustable, but block out loud noises to stop your little one from feeling agitated. 

With their foam-filled ear cushions that tilt for comfort, most buyers loved the quality of their noise cancelling, with one dad saying: "We bought these ear defenders for our 5-year-old daughter as we were attending a large fireworks event. She wore them throughout in comfort and is no longer afraid of fireworks! Very noise cancelling!"

Pros

  • Foam-filled ear cushions
  • Designed specifically for children up to age 7

Cons

  • Limited adjustability compared to others

Best noise-cancelling headphones for babies

ear defners for babies

Rrp: $39.99

Price: $29.99

Loud noises can be unsafe for babies, but Alpine's Muffy Baby ear defenders have been designed for your baby's protection and comfort.

The flexible non-slip band and warm ear cups are easy to wash too; the materials used are non-toxic, making it safe for your baby.  

These ear defenders are perfect for babies under 18 months; the soft, stretchy headband is ideal for this age, when babies are at their most vulnerable due to the not-yet-closed fontanelle. The stretchy band makes these ear defenders stand out against most others in our list which have solid headbands.

Parents loved this for their younger ones, with one mum reviewer saying: "I purchased and used these recently for a carnival and intend to try using them again for firework night."

Pros

  • Ear caps are made with multiple layers of noise reducing foam and soft padding
  • Fit on babies softly, without adding any pressure to the head

Cons

  • A little fiddly when trying to adjust

Best noise-cancelling headphones for everyday use

An ear protector especially made for the delicate ears of small children. These can be used in noisy areas, such as parties, parades, firework displays, and concerts.

The headband on these ear defenders are made from a lovely soft material, making them a bit different to most plastic offerings.

Offering a high noise reduction value (SNR) of 25 dB, these ear defenders are suitable for 5 to 16-year-olds, so not one if you're looking for ear defenders for your toddler.

The design is more modern and stylish than most we've tested; one mum tester said: "I love these ear defenders because they look cool and retro, rather than the garish colours you normally get. I'd wear them myself!"

Pros

  • Adjustable headband with soft lining
  • Offers a high noise reduction value (SNR) of 25 dB
  • Cool retro design more stylish than some

Cons

  • Only suitable for children aged over five

Best noise-cancelling headphones for unicorn fans

 
These cute ear defenders are designed with a gorgeous unicorn horn on the headband. Adjustable and easy to fold, these lightweight and soft ear defenders are portable and easy to carry. 

These are suitable for suitable for unicorn fans of all ages, from three months to 13 years old.

Adjustable and soft, they fold easily so are great for travelling or days out.

One mum loved these for her daughter, saying: "Bought these ear defenders for my 6-year-old daughter who has an ASD diagnosis. She has a sensitivity to noises and we’re going on a plane holiday for the first time in a few days, she uses noise cancelling headphones usually however been advised she can’t use these on the plane for taking off and landing. She sat with me and chose these, and when they arrived, she said they looked ‘perfect’. She is also sensitive to textures, and she likes the cushions, so this is good."

Pros

  • Adjustable and suitable from 3 months to 13 years
  • Perfect for unicorn fans

Cons

  • Some parents found them a bit stiff to adjust

Best noise-cancelling headphones for dinosaur fans

With a handy folding design, these noise-cancelling ear defenders fit around the ears perfectly and help reduce loud noises. The compact size allows your little one to carry them around, making them ideal for travel and days out. 

With dinosaur spikes along the headband, they're ideal for kids who love all things Jurassic. They're hard-wearing as well as eye-catching, and should be long-lasting.

One mum who bought these for her son said: "My son has always used ear defenders when we are out, shopping especially, can be loud and overwhelming for him. His previous pair broke and when I saw these for a slightly higher price, I knew I had to get them. He loves dinosaurs and even the packaging made him smile! Everywhere we go people comment on this amazing dinosaur ear defenders which seems to have given him so much confidence."

The adjustable design makes them suitable from the ages of three months to 13 years.

Pros

  • Eye-catching dinosaur design
  • Adjustable for ages from three months to 13 years

Cons

  • Can be tricky to open from the folded position

Best noise-cancelling headphones for football fans

football eear defenders
Price: $18.99

Your child can enjoy their favourite sports safely with the whole family, as these headphones offer good protection for sensitive ears, at medium noise levels. One parent who was happy with its price, also liked with its protection from loud noises: "My son was showing a lot of sensitivity to loud noises and places. After we got these, he's been a lot more comfortable being around the noise and busy environment of most places. Wish we had got them for him sooner."

With a Single Number Rating (SNR) of 28dB, they also include a free carry bag to stop the headphones from getting lost. They're available in a range of designs, from football to graffiti and outer space.

Pros

  • Adjustable and easy to use
  • Available in a range of different designs

Cons

  • Not as soundproof as others in this list

Best padded noise-cancelling headphones

procase ear defenders
Price: $14.99

These noise-cancelling headphones are great for those with sound sensitivities. The padded headband reduces the pressure on your child's head for superior comfort while soft ear cushions ensure a snug fit.

Retractable stainless steel and 360° rotatable ear cups make them easy to pack away when not in use.

Soft to the ear, the cushions ensure a snug fit and with an ergonomic design to help your little one feel confident. 

Purchased as a gift for her granddaughter, one reviewer said: "Our 13-month-old granddaughter will be here for New Year's eve, and we have fireworks going off around our home. We also use them at professional baseball and soccer games we go to reduce the crowd noise, they are great."

Pros

  • Compact fold for travel
  • Padded headband and ear cushions ensure comfy fit

Cons

  • One size fits most - not suitable for larger head sizes

Best noise-cancelling headphones for portability

Loop Earplugs Engage KidsLoop Earplugs

If your child prefers something more discreet, these Engage Kids Loop Earplugs are great.

Perfect for kids aged over six year old, these ear defenders help manage and reduce anxiety, so your child can focus on being a child. 

They are available in a variety of different colours and we love that they come in a carry case, so they can take them with them wherever they go.

With their ability to shield small ears from big noises, one mum agreed that Loop Earplugs filtered noise reduction: "My son has autism and used to wear large, over ear headphones all day at school. It was impacting his ability to connect socially, but he needed that ear protection in order to function in such a loud, busy environment. This school year, he has switched to Loop Kids and Loop Quiet ear plugs at school and I can’t believe what a life-changing swap it has been! They are so discreet, have fun colours, are so much more comfortable for him to wear all day, and for the first time he has been playing with friends at recess."

Pros

  • Multiple colourways to choose from
  • Comes with ear tips in different sizes

Cons

  • Ear tips may need cleaning regularly

FAQs

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), usually called autism, is something you’re born with. Autism means the way you picture things and experience the world might be diverse and different to most people. The National Autistic Society says: "Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world."

Some autism characteristics can make it hard to express your emotions in social situations, but can also mean you are educated and loving about topics that make you happy.

How do ear defenders work for autism?

Ear defenders help children and adults who have sensory processing disorders such as Auditory Processing Disorder, autism, ADHD or Asperger’s Syndrome to reduce external stimuli and help them process their environment.

By relieving and decreasing loud background noise, headphones help them filter out sensory strain, blurring out distractions and encourage a calm setting, while still allowing your child to hear and perceive the voice of someone speaking to them.

Mummy to a little girl, Adejumoke Ilori is Commercial Content Writer for Mother&Baby. With a BA hon in Creative Writing, she has worked for digital platforms, where she has empowered women from the inside and out, by sharing real life stories based on relationships, loving yourself and mummyhood.

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