earplug headphones

5 Best Earplug-Style Headphones for Construction (2022 Guide)

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Headphones that look like earplugs are the ideal choice for construction workers because they not only reduce outside noise but also allow you to safely listen to your favorite music and make voice calls. If you work around heavy machinery, sawing, cutting, hammering, or other loud construction sounds, OSHA Standard 1910.95 covering Occupational Noise Exposure requires adequate hearing protection to reduce incoming noise to a safe decibel level

OSHA Standard 1910.95 Requirements

According to OSHA 1910.95, workers exposed to an “8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels” must wear hearing protection. The most common types of hearing protection for construction workers are earplugs and earmuffs.

Typically, employers provide earplugs to be compliant with OSHA or require that their employees supply their own forms of compliant hearing protection. The key to choosing the best headphones for construction is to select headphones with a high noise reduction rating (NRR).

In most cases, headphones with an NRR of 25 or higher are adequate for the job site. Additionally, choosing headphones that look like earplugs is wise because this type of headphone typically features standard safety colors including yellow and orange.

Now that you’ve considered those points, let’s check out an overview of the headphones before moving to the reviews of each model.

All the headphones in the chart below are OSHA compliant. Be careful when choosing other lesser-known brands that claim to comply with OSHA/ANSI standards.

Top 5 Best Earplug Headphones for Construction Workers

ProductDescription
#1) ISOtunes PRO 2.0 Bluetooth Earplug Headphones

  • NRR: 27 dB
  • Mic for Voice Calls: Yes
  • Model: IT-21
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery Life: 16+ hours
  • Price: $$$
#2) ISOtunes Free True Wireless Earplug Earbuds

  • NRR: 22 dB
  • Mic for Voice Calls: Yes
  • Model: EN352-2
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery Life: 7+ hours
  • Price: $$$
#3) Plugfones Liberate 2.0 In-Ear Earplug Earbuds

  • NRR: 27 & 29 dB
  • Mic for Voice Calls: Yes
  • Model: PL-UY
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery Life: 12 hours
  • Price: $$
#4) Plugfones Basic Pro In-Ear Earplug Earbuds

  • NRR: 27 dB
  • Mic for Voice Calls: Yes
  • Model: PBT-UY
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • Battery Life: 10 hours
  • Price: $
#5) Elgin Ruckus Earplug Earbuds

  • NRR: 25 dB
  • Mic for Voice Calls: No
  • Model: M1
  • Bluetooth: No
  • Battery Life: N/A
  • Price: $

The Importance of Hearing Protection for Construction

As you can see, there’s a range of headphones that look like earplugs, from wired to wireless Bluetooth options. The cheapest earplug headphones are usually wired, however, you’ll find a lot of copycat brands that are worth skipping over once you enter the wired department. Construction workers who are serious about preserving their hearing and general ear protection will want to stick with one of the three brands above.

According to the CDC, hearing loss in the United States is a more common chronic physical condition than both cancer and diabetes – let that sink in a minute. Secondly, occupational hearing loss due to high noise exposure is the most common of all work-related injuries.

An article published by PBS interviewed a gentleman who worked in construction for over 30 years before he began wearing hearing protection. By the time he began wearing hearing protection, it was already too late because the piecing ear pain he’d developed was “debilitating.”

It’s not my intention to scare you, but it is my intention to help you understand why hearing protection is so important in the construction industry. To preserve your hearing, industrial hearing protection is necessary. This is another reason why it’s important to buy from reliable brands when shopping for the best earplug headphones.

Best Earplug Headphones Reviews

Below, I share our reviews of each of the headphones in the chart above along with the pros & cons of owning them. Be sure to consider the pros & cons of each model to determine what to expect.

#1) ISOtunes PRO 2.0 Bluetooth Earplug Headphones

The current best earplug headphones brand is ISOtunes. Of all the available brands, ISOtunes packs the most safety features into its headphones for construction workers. The feature we really like for hearing protection is ISOtunes SafeMax technology that automatically limits the max volume to 85 dB to stay OSHA compliant even when listening to music.

Construction activities that carry a decibel rating above 100 dB include welding, cutting with a circular saw, and working around heavy machinery. The PRO 2.0 model carries a reliable 27 NRR, which means the headphones have the ability to reduce outside noise by 27 decibels when worn properly. Always follow the directions to ensure you get a tight seal for maximum noise reduction.

Several final highlights that make the PRO 2.0 headphones our top selection are the long 16+ hour battery life, a noise-canceling mic for clear voice calls, Bluetooth 5.0 for a better range up to 30ft, an IP67 dust & waterproof rating, and an integrated volume control panel. Lastly, ISOtunes backs its headphones with a 1-year warranty.

Pros

  • An integrated volume limiter that automatically caps the max volume at 85 dB
  • Clear voice-call quality with noise reduction
  • The Safety Orange color blends in well on construction sites
  • No need to worry about recharging them while working with the 16+ hour battery life
  • Reliable 1-year warranty
  • It’s easy to press the control buttons while wearing gloves
  • Excellent audio quality & Bluetooth range
  • Large storage case included

Cons

  • Selecting the right tips for your ears might be a bit tricky
  • Wearing earmuffs over the headphones may cause too much pressure to be comfortable
  • The tips rebound more quickly when compressed than standard construction earplugs

#2) ISOtunes Free True Wireless Earplug Earbuds

For those of you who want to skip the wires, ISOtunes Free are currently the best wireless earplug headphones for construction. There are two styles that are good for construction workers including the Safety Green and Safety Yellow varieties. Of the two, the Safety Yellow color blends in the best with other construction hearing protection devices.

Additionally, there’s a special feature that caps the max incoming volume at 79 decibels rather than 85. Be sure to consider this feature if you prefer a max volume of 85 dB because the Safety Green and Matte Block models cap the volume at 85 dB. As an owner of several pairs of wireless Bluetooth earbuds, I can confirm that seven hours per charge is more life than most other wireless earbuds offer.

For long workdays when you plan to use the earbuds for more than seven hours, the charging case provides three full charges for up to twenty-one more hours of use. Finally, it’s important to consider that the ISOtunes Free model carries a 22 NRR while the Pro 2.0 model carries a 27 NRR. Depending on how noisy your work environment is, you may want to stick with Pro 2.0 to get OSHA/ANSI-compliant hearing protection.

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • No wires to worry about snagging on your clothes or other objects
  • They stay in the ears well
  • Long battery life for wireless earbuds
  • Clear voice calls
  • Easier to put earmuffs over than wired earplug headphones
  • Great Bluetooth range up to 40ft
  • Recommended by woodworkers and metalworkers

Cons

  • The lowest NRR of the options in this guide
  • ISOtunes recommends replacing the tips every 3 months
  • You might feel the max volume on the Safety Yellow version is too low

#3) Plugfones Liberate 2.0 In-Ear Earplug Earbuds

The first brand to consider after ISOtunes is Plugfones. Compared to the two ISOtunes headphones above, Plugfones do cost a good chunk less at the time of this writing. Of the five pairs of headphones in this guide, Plugfones Liberate 2.0 offers the highest level of noise reduction at 27 and 29 decibels.

What’s the difference? The reason Plugfones lists two NRRs is that the package includes two types of tips. The included foam tips carry an NRR of 29, while the silicone tips carry an NRR of 27. We feel as though this is the greatest selling point for these headphones over the ISOtunes models since some people prefer silicone tips. Another advantage is the connection for the tips. ISOtunes uses a screw-on tip that’s more prone to breaking than the standard connections on Plugfones headphones.

Several final highlights of the Liberate 2.0 buds are the long battery life of twelve hours w/ rapid charge capability, the noise-isolating IsoTalk mic for voice calls, and QuickDraw easy-access controls. Lastly, you may find that the Liberate 2.0 model stays balanced better than the ISOtunes Pro 2.0 model since the ISOtunes Pro battery is housed together with the controls on one side without a counterweight, unlike the Liberate 2.0 model.

Pros

  • More affordable than ISOtunes
  • Both foam and silicone tips included
  • The highest NRR for high-noise construction environments
  • Great Bluetooth range
  • Durable construction
  • The rapid-charge feature works well
  • The base package includes several pairs of tips
  • The surprisingly good audio quality for earplug headphones

Cons

  • Battery life might not reach 12 hours per charge
  • More broken headphones than ISOtunes models
  • Customer service doesn’t appear as reliable as ISOtunes

#4) Plugfones Basic Pro In-Ear Earplug Earbuds

Plugfones Basic Pro earbuds are the best mid-range option in this guide. At the time of this writing, they cost about half the price of a pair of ISOtunes. The biggest differences between the Basic Pro and Liberate 2.0 models are the included tips and battery life. The Basic Pro includes Plugfones ComfortTiered silicone plugs only rather than silicone and foam tips. Also, the battery life rating is ten hours compared to twelve with the Liberate 2.0 model.

However, considering the number of complaints about battery life in the Liberate 2.0 model not reaching twelve hours, the Basic Pro model gives you about the same amount of juice per charge. Plus, the Basic Pro model also features the QuickCharge option to get you back up and running in case the battery dies while at work.

A couple of final considerations are that the Basic Pro model currently has better ratings than the Liberate 2.0 model, and you get the same noise-isolating mic in this model for voice calls. Overall, you may find that this model is better value for the money than the Liberate 2.0 model, especially if you prefer silicone plugs over foam.

Pros

  • Better ratings overall than the Liberate 2.0 model
  • Cheaper than Liberate 2.0
  • They look more like normal earplugs than ISOtunes models
  • Adequate noise reduction in areas with 100 dB sound levels
  • The good audio quality for the money
  • Higher max music volume than ISOtunes wireless earbuds
  • A counterweight prevents the wire from shifting to one side
  • The volume controls are more inconspicuous than other models

Cons

  • The cord may feel long to you
  • The sound lacks bass
  • Battery life may not live up to the 10-hour rating

#5) Elgin Ruckus Earplug Earbuds

The cheapest earplug headphones in this guide that comply with OSHA/ANSI Standards is this pair by Elgin. Compared to the other four options in this guide, these cost significantly less. The key consideration is that they don’t feature Bluetooth for voice calls or wireless listening. If you own a newer model cell phone without an audio jack, you’ll most likely want to stick with Bluetooth options to avoid having to buy a separate adapter.

The features we like the most in these headphones are their discreet appearance and the quality of the silicone tips for the money. Elgin uses USP Class 5 medical-grade silicone which is both soft and highly unlikely to cause irritation. Also, we like the shape of the tips more than Plugfones.

As far as durability is concerned, these earbuds have some features you’ll definitely like, including a triple-molded audio jack, kevlar-reinforced cable, IP65 rating for protection against moisture & dust, and a woven nylon storage zip case. All in all, if you’re okay with using wired headphones, these are the best wired earplug headphones for construction workers currently available.

Pros

  • Easier to conceal beneath clothing than Bluetooth earplug headphones with controls on the wire
  • Great sound quality for the money
  • High 25 NRR is comparable to top-rated construction earplugs
  • Super-comfortable silicone tips that are good for wearing long hours
  • Compatible with any device with a 3.5mm audio jack
  • More likely to get the green light from employers than other options
  • A friendly customer service team
  • Recommended by construction workers for OSHA compliance

Cons

  • The tips are not replaceable
  • No mic for voice calls
  • The cord may feel a bit short to you

Bottom Line

The best headphones for construction workers are either earplug headphones or earmuffs with audio. The advantage of headphones that look like earplugs is that they can be worn with a hard hat and are more inconspicuous. Depending on which pair of headphones you choose, you’ll find that in most cases other people on the site won’t even know you’re wearing headphones unless they look closely.

Finally, always be sure to check the NRR of headphones to ensure they comply with OSHA and ANSI requirements. Considering OSHA does not officially approve headphones, it’s best to aim for a minimum NRR of 25 to give yourself the best chance of reducing incoming noise to below 85 dB.

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