Editor choice

Autism Noise Canceling Headphones & Earplugs Reviewed by Autistic People

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If you are on the autism spectrum like me or you have an autistic child or family member, you probably know sounds and too much sensory stimuli can stress us out. Everything is loud and harsh to our ears and too much noise can cause a meltdown. Luckily, there's an easy way to reduce sensory overload with autism — noise canceling headphones! 

Our Autism Ear Protection Top Picks

These are our top picks for autism headphones and earplugs — all recommended and used by actually autistic people. 

1. Best Budget Autism Headphones:

  • Silensys E7 — good sound yet ultra-affordable at under $50
  • Soundcore Space One — Pair with multiple devices, adjust noise-canceling levels for situational awareness, and fantastic sound for under $100!

2. Best Sound Quality Noise-Canceling Headphones for Autism:

3. Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds for Autistic Adults:

4. Best Autism Earplugs: 

  • For Autistic Adults: Loop Switch — the world's most multifunctional earplugs allow you to switch between different levels of hearing protection depending on the situation
  • For Autistic Kids: Loop Engage Kids — fit children and adults with small ear canals.
Loop Switch Ear Plugs
Loop Switch Ear Plugs
Loop Engage Kids Ear Plugs
Loop Engage Kids Ear Plugs

6. Best Ear Defenders for Autism:

7. Best Sleep Headphones for Autism:

DormiPhones
DormiPhones
Use code TAB10 for 10% off your purchase!

How We Chose the Best Autism Headphones and Earplugs

In case you're wondering how we chose these headphones and earplugs and why you should trust us, here's what you should know: 

  • The primary author of this article is an actually autistic adult (that's me, Olivia Jayne M.). I have tested 10 different models of headphones personally and 7 types of earplugs. They are one of my special interests. I use my firsthand experience with what works and what doesn't to write my reviews. If it's good, I recommend it. If it's not, I don't! 
  • With that said, I'm one autistic person, and we all have different experiences. That's why I've also included headphones reviews from other neurodivergent people — friends and Ability Toolbox Instagram followers — so you have the information you need to make the right choice for you or your child. 
  • The Ability Toolbox is a website for disabled people by disabled people. We are peer experts who know our community best, so you can trust our crowdsourcing over some big tech website that wrote about us just to get clicks. 

Autism Headphones and Earplugs Recommendation Quiz

We're sharing the autism headphones and earplugs we love, but you understand your needs best, so we're here to empower you with this quiz. Just answer a few questions and we'll help you find the right sensory support for yourself or an autistic family member. Don't worry, you won't have to enter your email address to get your results; we'll take you directly to the item that best matches your needs. And you can take the quiz as many times as you want to explore all your options!

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Autism Noise Canceling Headphones Can Prevent Meltdowns

Research demonstrates the benefits of noise-canceling headphones for autism. According to a study published in Frontiers in Integrated Neuroscience, physiological measurements of autistic children who used headphones in the classroom demonstrated that they reduce hypersensitivity reactions to environmental noise. Or in plain English: headphones help kids on the spectrum to cope with loud noise and prevent meltdowns. And if you want to understand this better, ask an autistic person. We are a very diverse community, but we nearly universally love using ear protection of some kind. 

I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age 14. At first, I was surprised — “What? I'm autistic?” — but when I started reading about autism it made so much sense. Finally I had a way to understand myself. I started talking to other actually autistic people online and told them about my problems with loud noises. They said many people on the autism spectrum are extremely sensitive to sound and it's one of the major causes of sensory overload and meltdowns.

My new autistic friends suggested I get earplugs and noise canceling headphones and wear them whenever I'm going to be in a place with loud or annoying sounds. I did and they helped so much that headphones became one of my special interests! I'm obsessed with finding the very best autism noise canceling headphones. I've learned that headphones can also help other neurodivergent people with conditions like sensory processing disorder and ADHD. 

Smiling girl with autism noise canceling headphones

 

Types of Headphones

I learned there are 3 kinds of headphones that can help with sound if you have autism and/or sensory processing disorder. They are noise reduction headphones and earplugs, noise canceling headphones, and sleep headphones. Here's everything you need to know about them from an autistic perspective!

Autism Noise Reduction Headphones

If you have severe noise sensitivity because of autism or you are going to be around extremely loud sounds, like fireworks, guns, or an arena concert, noise reduction headphones are the perfect choice! Noise reduction (also called noise isolation) headphones block sound by covering or sealing your ear. They can be either ear plugs that go in your ears or big headphones that enclose your ears. They are made with materials that filter sound, so they do a good job of lowering the volume of the world to something we autistics can stand! 

Autism Ear Defenders

Autism Hearing Protection

Every actually autistic person I have met has at least one pair of ear defenders. These are strictly earmuffs and block sound, they don't have speakers.

Pros

  • These full-ear protectors work really well. They block more sound than any other type of headphones.
  • Low-cost, great for kids on the spectrum who might break or lose them.
  • They come in lots of fun colors and patterns

Cons

  • Bulky, so you have to adjust them carefully and your head might get sore after wearing them for hours.
  • Extremely visible -- you'll be announcing your autism wherever you go.

Autism Ear Defenders with Bluetooth Sound

These ear defenders are the best of both worlds — they block ambient noise and can play music.

3M WorkTunes Headphones

The 3M Worktunes Bluetooth ear defenders are our most popular headphones. I use mine for very intense sensory situations such as the airport and train stations and they help a lot.

Pros

  • Highly effective sound blocking with the ability to listen to music or a podcast on the go -- what's not to love?
  • Great alternative for those who experience dizziness or a weird sensation when wearing active noise canceling headphones.
  • Durable for outdoor activities and autistic kids and adults who might drop them.

Cons

  • Bulky, heavy, and highly visible just like other ear defenders.

Autism Ear Plugs

I'm proud to be autistic. I'm not broken, just different, and it's given me gifts like my special interests and my memory! Buuuuuut… that doesn't mean I always want to walk around with a giant pair of sound blocking headphones over my ears. It makes people think I don't want to talk to them when actually I do. And when I was in high school, wearing big ear defenders to class made me a target for bullies and classmates constantly asking “Why are you wearing those?”

So if you want to be less obvious, or if you have a kid who is being teased for their huge autism noise canceling headphones, ear plugs are the solution! 

Featured Ear Plugs for Autism — Loop

Do you struggle with misophonia or get sensory overload from everyday sounds? Loop ear plugs filter different levels of noise while allowing you to hear conversations and maintain situational awareness in public when needed. After testing lots of ear plugs, Loop have become my favorites for so many reasons. I got through a month with a bad neighbor who yelled and blasted music all the time by using my Loops. Luckily he moved, but I wouldn't have survived without them!

Loop Switch Ear Plugs

One set of earplugs to rule them all! Loop Switch ear plugs combine the features of all their other models. You can easily shift between Engage, Experience and Quiet modes depending on your environment. Loop Switch gives you total control over your sound experience.

Loop Engage Kids Ear Plugs

This model of Engage comes with several inserts to fit smaller ear canals and adjust as your child grows.

Loop Engage Plus Ear Plugs

Need to take the edge off of everyday sounds? These earplugs provide 16 dB of noise dampening without muffling conversations. They even come with the Loop Mute accessory so they can double as sleep earplugs.

Choosing the Right Loop Earplugs Model

Here's a great explanation of the differences between the 3 Loop models, written by Aaryn S. who has autism and ADHD:

“The Loop Engages DAMPEN sound, meaning you will still hear everything to a lesser and gentler degree. The Experiences FILTER sound, meaning things like background noise and far-off conversation will be muted and filtered out, there are things you may not hear any other, louder things you will hear. The Quiets BLOCK sound, silencing everything equally.

With the Experiences, I can hear things like my breathing and swallowing; with the Engages, those things are either inaudible or far from noticeable. With the Engage Plus mutes inserted, they feel a lot closer to the Quiets than Experience Plus, and overall I find the Engage more comfortable and versatile.”

But why choose? Loop recently introduced their Switch model, which gives you all three kinds of earplugs for the price of one. When I'm at work, I use Engage mode to hear my coworkers while tuning out harsh sounds. When walking or riding the train, I use Experience mode for more noise protection. And at night, I use Quiet mode and sleep peacefully. 

Loop Switch 3 in 1 earplugs for autism.

Check out Loop Switch here.

Flare Earplugs

Flare Calmer earplug alternatives are a groundbreaking innovation designed specifically for people with sound sensitivities -- that's us!   Flare is a small company that engineers, develops, and tests their products in-house. They care about our community and actively seek out feedback on their designs from autistic people -- and it shows in the quality of their products!   You can help them (and The Ability Toolbox) by buying directly from their website via the button below instead of through a big online retailer (cough cough).

 

Black man laying in the grass wearing autism noise canceling headphones

Autism Headphones

If you have autism, headphones are perfect for places where you’re trying to work or listen to music to reduce anxiety but there's background noise, like coffee shops and the bus or train. A big, padded pair of headphones is soothing to my ears, and listening to music helps with my anxiety and sensory processing issues. Some loud places will always be hard for me to visit as an actually autistic person, but my headphones absolutely help. I can go to restaurants and ride the bus to work! I have misophonia which means certain sounds are painful to hear, like people chewing gum. I would have to leave if somebody was chewing gum around me. Now, with my noise canceling headphones, it doesn’t bother me as much.

Autism Noise Canceling Headphones

Active noise canceling headphones use microphones to pick up the noise around you, create an opposite (phase-reversed) noise, and send it to your headphones so the sounds cancel each other out. Noise canceling headphones work best with lower-frequency sounds such as engines and machinery humming. Combined with a solid fit over or in the ears for noise isolation, they do a great job filtering out background sounds, but if someone speaks directly to you, you'll usually hear them. This can be a game-changer for autistic people who must navigate busy places or deal with loud noises at school or work. 

Active Noise Canceling Headphones for Autism: Budget

For options under $100, these are the best value. You'll be surprised at what you can get for a fairly modest price.

Soundcore Space One

I continue to test headphones all the time and I have new affordable favorites! Here's my review of Soundcore Space One.

Pros

  • They have 5 different noise cancelling modes (up from 3 in the older Life Q30 model), so they can filter out the right type of sound for every situation. They filter traffic and wind noise, train, plane, and bus engines, and cancel background chatter. They can even auto-adjust to the ambient noise around you. This is an incredibly useful feature.
  • They include multiple microphones to pinpoint and amplify your voice, which means your voice will be clear and easy to understand when you make calls and video chat.
  • Fabulous 50-hour battery life so you can explore the world without fear of losing your noise protection.
  • All Anker Soundcore models are comfortable and I can wear them for hours without pain.
  • Great quality from a reputable brand.

Cons

  • Excellent sound quality, but if you're an audiophile, they're not a substitute for Bose and other ultra-high-end models.
  Get 15% off when you buy Soundcore headphones from the manufacturer's website linked below. It really helps us when you choose these over Bezos. Don't worry, they have fast shipping!

Silensys Budget ANC Headphones for Autism

Silensys were the first noise canceling headphones I bought and I still recommend them to other autistic people. Here are some reasons why you might like them too.

Pros

  • Ultra affordable. If budget is a big concern for you, Silensys headphones are an ideal choice. They have a model under $50 and a model under $100.
  • If your autistic child breaks headphones often, their low price is a big plus.
  • Good noise canceling. Impressive for the price; even the cheapest model does a good job.
  • Comfortable for the price. I had the E7 first and lost them, then upgraded to the E9. The cheaper ones were fine for 4 hours of steady use, but I can be very content using the upgraded model through an 8-hour workday with no issues.
  • Fold up small for transport, and Silensys offers a sturdy case as an optional accessory.
  • Colorful! If you love bright colors like I do, you'll love their wide range of options! Of course, they also have black and white if you want something neutral.

Cons

  • Low-end Chinese company. They sell their headphones under multiple brand names.
  • Too cheap. My original pair still works, but if you want to get away from a disposable consumerist lifestyle and buy headphones that will last for many years, choose a different brand.

Active Noise Canceling Headphones for Autism: High-End

High-end headphones are worth the price, especially if you have severe hyperacusis. Before buying, consider your priorities in terms of sound quality, comfort, aesthetics, and trendiness. You can find a balance that works for you.

Recommended High-Quality Noise Canceling Headphones

Editor's Choice

Bose Headphones

If you are an autistic person who loves music like I do, Bose is worth the bucks. I can wear the over-ear Bose QuietComfort Ultra all day without my ears or head hurting.

Here's what you should know before you buy.

Pros

  • The best sound quality. If you're an audiophile, if you love EDM, ASMR, and other sound experiences that require headphones, Bose are outstanding.
  • Comfortable. Once again, you get what you pay for, and the earpads and headset will fit most adults well.
  • Adjustable noise canceling. It can also be toggled off when you need situational awareness.

Cons

  • Expensive. Bose headphones are a major investment, so if you also have ADHD and tend to lose things, they may not be the right choice for you. I mostly use mine at home for this reason!
  • Cost is too high to buy for some kids or adults with high support needs who might break them.
  • Mediocre battery life. They last 22 hours with ANC on, which is not bad, but less than other, cheaper headphones. However, a 15-minute quick charge will get you 2 hours of battery, so you won't be stuck riding home on the bus or subway without hearing protection.

Soundcore Space Q45

If you want high style and sound quality but your budget is a bit lower, Soundcore Space Q45 is a fantastic model for only around $150.

Pros

  • Amazing 50-hour battery life. They are ideal for active people who don't have easy access to a charger and for outdoor activities such as camping.
  • Excellent value for the money. Soundcore by Anker is a great brand that stands behind their products.
  • 3-stage noise canceling system reduces noise by up to 98%.
  • Adjustable noise canceling with 5 levels to choose from to balance comfort and situational awareness. I change mine often depending on what I'm doing. I like that I can hear more ambient sound when walking alone in the evening but then filter out subway noise.
  • Bluetooth 5.3 with multipoint connection lets you easily switch between devices such as from phone to laptop.

Cons

  • Honestly, none. I mean, they're 90% as good as Bose for sound quality with over twice the battery life at half the price, so you really can't go wrong.
  Get 15% off when you buy from the manufacturer's website.

Skullcandy Headphones

Skullcandy is an excellent mid-price brand that gives you a lot for your money. Here's what I love about my Hesh ANC headphones.

Pros

  • Super comfortable cans for hours of wear. They're like pillows for my ears!
  • Excellent sound quality from a trusted brand.
  • Under $150, so losing them wouldn't be a crisis.
  • But I won't lose them, because they have Tile built in! This is a real plus for neurodivergents with executive dysfunction like me who always misplace things.

Cons

  • Only 22 hours of battery life -- again, mediocre from a brand with such a great reputation. Still, if I need a boost, just 10 minutes of charge time gets me 3 more hours of listening.

Autism Noise Canceling Earbuds

If you're looking for discreet sensory support, noise canceling earbuds may be right for you. 

Soundcore Earbuds

I don't like to pay a lot for noise-canceling earbuds because they're so easy to lose. That's why I like Soundcore -- they provide excellent sound at an affordable price point.

Pros

  • The Soundcore Space A40 offer great sound quality at a lower price than AirPods and are well worth the purchase. 50 hours of playtime means you won't have to charge often.
  • Sport X10 are a good option for a lower price point and more secure fit.

Cons

  • Some of our reviewers reported that the controls are unreliable.
  Get 15% off when you buy Soundcore noise-canceling earbuds from the manufacturer's website below.

Autism Sleep Headphones

I sometimes have trouble sleeping at night. Autism makes my ears so sensitive that I hear even the smallest noises like the heat turning on or my cat walking around in the kitchen. I often need soothing music or a podcast to help me fall asleep. But sleeping in big noise canceling headphones isn’t very comfortable, so I got sleep headphones. I also have an eye mask to wear along with headphones which helps with too much visual stimulation when I'm on a plane or staying at a hotel.

DormiPhones
DormiPhones
DormiPhones are the most comfortable sleep headphones I've used. It's really easy to remove the speakers so you can wash the headband. They're Bluetooth wireless and the sound quality is much better than other sleep headphones. Discount available -- use code TAB10 for 10% off your purchase!

Pros

  • Sleep headphones are perfect for kids on the autism spectrum who might find other kinds of headphones uncomfortable or who keep taking them off.
  • Harder to break than regular headphones if your child is having a meltdown.
  • They come in lots of colors and designs to fit your child's special interests. 

Cons

  • Focus on compactness and comfort means a compromise in sound quality. They are fine to use when falling asleep, just don't expect them to provide a Bose or Sony experience.

I hope this little guide helps you find the right headphones for yourself or your child on the autism spectrum. Even though I love headphones, I can’t buy every single pair so if you know of some good ones I didn’t mention, please leave a comment and I’ll update this list!

Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Bose QuietComfort 45 Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling Headphones, Over-Ear Headphones with Microphone, Personalized Noise Cancellation and Sound, Triple Black

BOSE QuietComfort 45 Noise-Canceling Headphones for Autism

Best deal at: Amazon.com
Original price was: $329.00.Current price is: $225.14.
Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Silensys E7 Active Noise Cancelling Headphones Bluetooth Headphones with Microphone Deep Bass Wireless Headphones Over Ear, Comfortable Protein Earpads, 30 Hours Playtime for Travel/Work, Black

Budget Autism Headphones: Silensys E7 with Active Noise Cancelling

Best deal at: Amazon.com
$49.98
Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Soundcore by Anker, Space One, Active Noise Cancelling Headphones, 2X Stronger Voice Reduction, 40H ANC Playtime, App Control, LDAC Hi-Res Wireless Audio, Comfortable Fit, Clear Calls, Bluetooth 5.3

Soundcore SpaceOne Sensory Headphones for Autism

Best deal at: Amazon.com
$99.00
Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Loop Engage Plus Earplugs – Low-level Noise Reduction with Clear Speech for Conversation, Social Gatherings, Sensitivity & Parenting 8 Ear Tips + Extra Accessories 16 dB NRR 10 - Crystal

Loop Engage Plus Earplugs for Autism and Sensory Needs

Best deal at: Amazon.com
$44.95
Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Snug Kids Ear Protection - Noise Cancelling Sound Proof Earmuffs/Headphones for Toddlers, Children & Adults (Aqua)

Snug Autism Ear Defenders for Kids

Best deal at: Amazon.com
$17.99
Added to wishlistRemoved from wishlist 0
Featured!
Walker's Razor Slim Passive Earmuff - Ultra Low-Profile Earcups - Black

Walker's Razor Slim Passive Earmuffs for Autism

Best deal at: Amazon.com
Original price was: $29.99.Current price is: $19.99.

Hey I'm Olivia and I'm a proud Autistic woman. My special interests are cats, stim toys, and electronic music! I love to write and help other Autistic adults find ways to enjoy life in this LOUD world!

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