Earbuds, Headphones, Headsets

NRR Rating

Guide to NRR Ratings

What is an NRR Rating?

Noise Reduction rating (NRR) refers to a unit used to measure the effectiveness and noise exposure of hearing protection devices within a specific working environment.

NRR Rating

We first need to determine if a Noise Reduction Rated Headphone is enough to provide sufficient hearing protection for the environment in which it will be used.

Determine how noisy your tour environment is. Learn how to interpret NRR values using real world conditions.

First, you will need a Sound Level Meter to measure the dB(A), noise level of your tour environment. Set the meter for “slow” response, and “A weighting”. As the conditions change during the tour, measure the noise in the area. It is important to measure the noise in the most noisy area guests will be exposed.

Next, we must understand how the NRR value is calculated. This information can be used with the measured noise level to accurately predict the protection levels achieved by an individual.

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), a measure of the effectiveness in reducing noise levels, is used to determine how effective hearing protection devices are. Higher values mean greater noise reduction. NRR values can range from around 30 dB up to about 40 dB. The EPA label below shows a headset with a 33 dB NRR.

The following is OSHA’s recommended method of calculating the protected exposure for the same headset:

  • OSHA calculates that the actual noise level heard is 81 decibels(A), after applying the recommended 50% correction factor.
  • The reality is that the noise exposure level of the tour guests in this example will be between 72 dBA (best case) and 81 DB(A).

NRR Rating Range

The NRR is a standard way to indicate the amount of noise reduction provided by different types hearing protectors. It can range from 0 to 30 with higher values indicating greater noise reduction. The potential for noise reduction is greater if a hearing protector has a higher NRR.

What is an acceptable NRR rating?

It’s best to think about ranges. A hearing protector with a lower NRR than 20 will protect you more than a device with a higher NRR. A hearing protector with a NRR of high 20’s to low 30’s will offer you the best protection.

What is a Good NRR Rating?



150 dB = Rock Concert

140 dB = Jet Engine, Firearms, Air-Raid Siren

130 dB = Jackhammer

120 dB = Band Practice, Plane take-off, Car Stereo, Amplified music at 4-6 feet


Extremely loud

110 dB = Machinery, Model Airplanes

100 dB = Chain Saw, Pneumatic Drill, Snowmobile

90 dB = Train, Lawnmowers, Shop Tools, Truck Traffic


Very loud

80 dB = Busy Street, Alarm Clock

70 dB = Vacuum Cleaner

60 dB = Normal Conversation, Dishwasher



50 dB = Moderate Rainfall

40 dB = Quiet room



30 dB = Study Hall, Whisper, Library


Highest NRR Ear Plugs and NRR Headphones

There are two basic styles of noise reduction headphones, over-the-ear/earmuffs and in ear/earplugs.

Earmuffs should be placed around the ear. To ensure a proper fit, the earmuff must be completely around the ear. The head size and shape will determine how snug the headset fits.  A proper fit is possible due to the fact that the headset does not seal tightly against the skin.

NRR Bluetooth Headphones


3M Worktunes Connect

Principal features

  • NRR: 24dB
  • Playtime 20 hours
  • Microphones – Integrated microphone
  • Bluetooth Version: 4.2
  • Support for AM/FM radio
  • Audio assistive technology
  • Ear controls available for ease of use

You can effectively block out outside noise by wearing the 3M WorkTunes + AM/FM hearing protector Bluetooth earmuffs. These devices are top-of-the-line because they include built in support for AM and FM radio signals. The safe volume control automatically adjusts to maintain your hearing protection.

These controls are also very easy to find. On the right earmuff, you will find controls for volume or radio tuning. Audio Assist lets you know what radio station you are listening and lets you save favorite stations.

The gel ear pillows are also designed to support your ears and relieve pressure, so that you’re always comfortable, no matter what the activity.  Radio functionality is the main difference between 3M WorkTunes Conn + AM/FM HPDs & their predecessors, 3M WorkTunes Connect HDDs. The built-in battery of the 3M WorkTunes connect was replaced with disposables.

Even though most people believe that two AA batteries is bad, there are ways to save money. You can buy a compatible rechargeable lithium batteries at an additional cost. Additionally, spare batteries can be purchased so that you don’t run out.

Although the integrated mic works well, it can’t pick up your voice. It picks up your voice but it sounds as if it is far away from the mic. Retractable boom mics would be an improvement, as this is where 3M Worktunes Connect HPDs fail.

Walker’s XCEL 100

Principal features

  • NRR: 28dB
  • Playtime 20 hours
  • Microphones: Omnidirectional mic
  • Wind noise reduction technology
  • Four listening modes

Walker’s 100 HPDs XCEL 100 are very close. Walker’s Bluetooth protection for ear allows you to listen while you are at the shooting range, in the yard or working in noisy surroundings.  You can switch between four listening options depending on where your are: Universal, Speech Clarity Mode and High Frequency. You can also use active dynamic sound suppression or wind noise reduction to capture your voice on calls.

Walker’s XCEL 100 runs on two AAA batteries. Rechargeable batteries are preferable, but it can be handy to have the ability to change the batteries while on the move if you don’t have power.

These all-plastic models have a strong, lightweight construction and an ergonomic headband for increased comfort. You can also clamp pressure to keep the device in place, without it feeling too tight. To reduce the number and increase NRR, the controls are accessible from the headband.

Honeywell Sync Wireless Earbuds

Principal features

  • NRR: 25dB (SNR: 32dB)
  • Playtime: 16+ hrs
  • Microphones: Rotating boom microphone
  • Bluetooth Version: 4.1
  • Allows for wired and Bluetooth connections with audio devices
  • Premium headband constructed with durable steel
  • Volume management technology limits output to 82dB
  • Rechargeable battery built-in with USB charging cable, wall adapter and USB charging cable

Honeywell Sync Wireless Ear Mufts enable you to talk and work wirelessly, while also protecting you from hearing loss. The device’s boom microphone produces clear audio and picks up your voice in any environment. The device can rotate easily out of line of sight to avoid distracting others.

These are the only Bluetooth headphones with an external boom microphone, which rotates.  Honeywell Sync  Headbands have a stronger steel core, which adds durability and increases the overall life expectancy of the ear muffs. Additional padding is added to the headband and ear cups for comfort and protection.

Honeywell Sync Wireless Ear Muffs are protected against hearing damage by their volume management technology. This limits sound output to 82dB. They also use air flow technology, which reduces noise across all frequencies without compromising comfort and breathability.

Honeywell Sync Wireless earmuffs have an NRR rating 25dB and an SN rating 32dB. This ensures that you can safely enjoy your work or hobbies with the correct amount of hearing protection.  The downside to this device is the fact that it may not fit all heads. It may be uncomfortable and tight fitting, especially if your head is large.

WULFPOWERPRO Bluetooth Ear Muffs

Principal features

  • NRR: 29dB
  • Playtime: From 10 to 12 hours
  • Microphones: Noise-cancelling microphone built in
  • Supports wireless and wired connection to devices
  • Seamless switching of two Bluetooth devices
  • Can scan FM digital radio station frequencies
  • Rechargeable lithium battery and LCD display

WULFPOWERPRO Bluetooth Ear Muffs can provide hearing protection for all types of noisy environments. You can do any activity that involves loud noises, such as lawn mowing, landscaping work or heavy machinery operation, without being at risk for noise-induced hearing damage.

These ear muffs can be connected wirelessly via Bluetooth or wired using a standard stereojack cable. If you use Bluetooth syncing you can connect up two different devices at once.  When you connect two devices, your tablet can play a movie and your mobile phone can switch to it when you receive a call. This is possible without having to connect and disconnect each device manually.

These ear muffs have a NRR rating of 29dB and provide the highest level of noise protection on this list.  These are the best noise reduction products you can use to ensure your safety during noisy activities.

WULFPOWERPRO Bluetooth Ear Muffs support FM radio. You don’t have to connect to another device because this device comes with a built in antenna that has high reception sensitivity. This device allows you to scan the frequencies of radio stations and access your favorite programs. These ear muffs might be the right choice for you if you listen to radio stations often.

While the convenience of a rechargeable battery is great, the quality of both the battery and charging port seems to be poor. If you’re not careful, your charging port could break. With each charge, the battery life also decreases. The result is that you will have to charge them more often.

NRR Rated Headphones

  • Peltor Sport Tactical 500 Electro Hearing Protector
  • Principal features
  • NRR: 26dB
  • Playtime: 42 hours
  • Microphones – Durable, recessed microphones
  • Bluetooth or 3.5mm audio connectors are available for flexible connections
  • Dynamic suppression time to ensure safety and comfort while shooting
  • A low profile, lightweight, and comfortable design
  • Requires two (2) AAA batteries. However, you have the option to recharge your Li-on battery.

Best Overall: The Peltor Sport Tactical 500 provides reliable electronic hearing protection. It also offers excellent Bluetooth syncing performance, as well as great comfort. The pair is also equipped with all the features you would need to enjoy recreational shooting. This pair is our top choice for hearing protection for shooting.

The headphones’ lightweight and low profile design will not interfere with your shooting. Each ear cup has cut-outs on the lower end to allow the gunstock to rest while you aim.  The headband is adjustable and can be adjusted to fit all head sizes. They also have ventilation cut-outs in the headband to ensure maximum comfort when wearing hats. The ear cups are also covered with a rubber-like shell foam, which provides a snug seal around your ears.  An NRR of 26dB means you have the protection you need for hunting and shooting at the range.

Best Noice Blocking: Moldex – Pura-Fit is an earplug that will provide you with silence and isolation from the noisy world around. These plugs outperformed other plugs with higher NRR scores in our environmental noise testing. Although they are not the biggest nor densest of foam plugs, we found that they blocked the most sound.

Duraplugs are tied for the longest length, although they are slightly thicker. The only thing that can be seen is the difference in material. The tiny foam pores in this plug are about the same size and shape as those found in other foam ones. Hearos Xtreme Protection Plugs are rated highest at 33 dB NRR, beating out the Pura-Fits with 1 dB.

Best for Sleeping:  Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Pillow Putty is our favorite choice for maximum comfort and custom fit. This is why the best technology wins over sophisticated filter technologies and plastics. While the process of applying the earplugs can seem a little tedious at first, the comfort and convenience of not having anything in your ear canal far outweighs any inconvenience. Flanged earplugs could be as comfortable as the other types, but most had stems that were in direct contact with the plugs while you were on your side.

Best Sound Signature: 

ETY-Plugs can be described as a volume knob that you use to adjust the sound quality in your ears. Although the ETY-Plugs are more expensive, they offer superior sound quality.

These two are the best for sound quality due to the presence of more highs, and mids. You will hear a boomy low-end with foam plugs. However, the mids and high frequencies (like talking) will sound muffled. It is hard to hear the high frequencies, and it sounds stale and unnatural. Etymotic Plugs are described as “volume knobs” that reduce the volume of sound in a natural-sounding manner.

Plugs with lower NRRDB ratings generally sound better than plugs with higher ratings, because they do less work. ETY plugs block a low 12dBs, which is compared to heavy-duty foam plugs like Howard Leight and Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam that block 32dBs. All across the board, we discovered that higher dB reduction ratings come at the cost of lower sound quality.

NRR Rating Conclusion

Employees are protected by hearing protection in noisy workplaces. The information provided above can help you understand noise exposure levels as well as Noise Reduction Ratings (NRRs) for certain hearing protection devices.