Ear Muffs and Reducing Noise for Sensory Sensitivity

Do you experience sensory overload in noisy public places?  Furthermore, do you want to buy noise-cancelling ear muffs to help your child with sensory sensitivity?  According to a research, “Noise and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children: An Exploratory Survey” by Kanakri et al., (2017), noise sensitivity has been found to be an important issue for children with sensory sensitivities 1.  On the other hand, are you curious about ways to reduce auditory sensitivity? Perhaps you ask, “how do I protect my baby’s hearing”?

In this article, you learn all about earmuffs.  And learn about the words that describe similar products.  Additionally, learn how they are used to reduce noise.  Finally, you learn how they help with sensory sensitivity.  Especially hypersensitivity to sounds or noise.

Common earmuff questions.

  • What are all the phrases that describe noise-cancelling earmuffs?
  • Why does noise reduction help sensory overload?
  • Are there different ways I can reduce noise sensitivity in public places?
  • Where do people wear noise-cancelling earmuffs?
  • What should I look for when buying earmuffs to reduce noise?
  • Why tourist operators and workplaces have noise-cancelling earmuffs onsite.
Hands holds working protective headphones is Isolated on a white background

First of all, it is important to know that there are many different phrases used to describe noise-cancelling earmuffs.  Moreover, they sometimes refer to different products altogether. You might be confused.  Here are all the words that you will see: 

  • Ear-muff
  • Earmuffs
  • Noise-cancelling ear muffs
  • Noise-cancelling headphones
  • Noise-reducing ear muffs
  • Noise-reducing headphones
  • Noise reduction earmuffs
  • Noise reduction headphones

Products that help noise sensitivity.

Earmuff or ear-muffs.

Earmuff or ear-muffs are used to describe thermal ear coverings.  Typically, they are worn during the winter. It is important to note they are not designed to reduce noise.  On the other hand, earmuff and earmuffs also describe ear coverings which are specially designed to reduce noise.  So, beware of these conflicting words before you buy. 

Infographic describing noise-cancelling vs. noise reduction vs. noise reducing.

Noise-cancelling, noise reduction or noise reducing.

The next terms to learn are noise-cancelling, noise reduction or noise reducing.  Similarly, cancelling, reduction, and reducing are used interchangeably.

Noise-cancelling describes a special type of headphone. These headphones are used to listen to music. In addition, they are used while talking on the telephone.  In both cases, background noise is reduced. This is due to noise-cancelling features. However, noise-cancelling may also describe headphones that are not connected (wired or wirelessly) to music or to sound.  To sum up, ensure that you buy the right device!

In addition, noise reduction, noise-reducing earmuffs or headphones all describe over-the-ear protection.  In this instance, these products reduce environmental noises.  For example, people wear these products at a shooting range.  Alternatively, in a noisy workplace, like a factory.  Finally, people simple wear them at work for health and safety reasons.


The word “headphones” is often used instead of earmuffs.  However, headphones describe product to listen to music. Or to connect to a phone.  Headphones do not block out all sound. Nor do they reduce all sound.  On the other hand, they may help reduce sound or noise that comes from the environment. That means you listen to the sound from the headphones. Examples are music, white noise, podcast, movie soundtrack, instead of the environment around you.

Why does noise reduction help sensory overload?

Hearing is one of the senses.  Nonetheless, noise, and even a little bit of noise, contributes to sensory overload that people of all ages experience. Moreover, people with sensory sensitivity are bothered by specific noises. Furthermore, they are often bothered by noisy environments.  For example, in children, noise sensitivity occurs at school in the classroom. It also occurs on the playground. And finally, out in the community.  On the other hand, for adults, noise sensitivity and sensory overload may happen in the workplace. Alternatively, at home.  Noise sensitivity, sensory sensitivity, and sensory overload is a problem for many people. And people of all ages. Finally, in different environments.

Are there different ways I can reduce noise sensitivity in public places?

You can reduce noise sensitivity in public with noise-reducing earmuffs.  Furthermore, another tip is to look for events or places that offer a sensory-friendly experience.

Where do people wear noise-cancelling earmuffs?

Children, adults, and seniors all wear noise-cancelling earmuffs. People wear them at:

  • home
  • school
  • work
  • concerts
  • shooting ranges
  • grocery stores
  • amusement parks
  • many other public places

Parents often ask themselves, “how can I protect my baby’s hearing?”  At a music performance, you often see infants, toddlers, or children wearing ear protection.  So it is recommended that infants, children and adults wear noise-cancelling earmuffs in noisy environments. Both to protect their hearing and to reduce noise.

Do I know what to look for when buying earmuffs to reduce noise?

  • What is the NRR?

NRR stands for Noise Reduction Rating.  It is a standardized system that measures how much hearing protection is offered by a noise-reducing product.  Also, this measurement is reported in decibels. Decibels are a measurement of sound.  For example, the higher the NRR, the better the sound reduction.  Therefore, look for a higher NRR when you buy noise protection products.

Young person holding ear muffs to prevent noise sensitivity

Ask these questions when buying earmuffs for noise sensitivity:

  • What is the NRR?
  • Does someone need to carry the earmuffs?
  • Do they fold?
  • Are they for an infant or a baby?
  • For an older child?
  • How easily can they be transported? 
  • Do they come with a case?
  • Does color matter?
  • Are they the right size?
  • Is the head strap adjustable?
  • Are they comfortable to wear?
  • Are they too tight?  Too loose?
  • Is the head strap padded?
  • Am I looking for something to reduce noise from the environment?
  • Am I looking for something to reduce noise to listen to music?
  • Alternatively, am I looking for something to reduce noise to speak on the phone?
  • Do I just want a headset and microphone to use with my computer?
  • Finally, am I looking for something to sleep with an eye mask for travel?

Why tourist operators and workplaces have noise-cancelling earmuffs onsite.

You may have seen tourist operators have earmuffs that they loan, rent, or give out at their tourism attraction.  Smart tourist operators provide earmuffs for their customers. Moreover, you might even work or visit a co-working space that has them.   Smart workplaces often provide them for their employees too. This is because noise is a problem for many people. 

Review the questions above. Decide on your answers. Then you can make the best choice to buy noise-cancelling earmuffs.

Finally, interested in other sensory tools, sensory products or sensory toys? Find out more in these blog posts.

Moreover, parents, send your child to camp with noise-cancelling ear muffs too! Pack for a sensory-friendly camper!

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  1. Kanakri, S. M., Shepley, M., Varni, J. W., & Tassinary, L. G. (2017). Noise and Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children: An Exploratory Survey. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 63, 85–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2017.02.004
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