If one thing is for sure, everyone in attendance at a NASCAR race should wear ear protection. Choosing the best hearing protection for a NASCAR race involves several considerations. How close are you sitting to the track? Do you have access to the pit? Do you want to be able to hear ambient noise while blocking dangerously loud sounds? How much do you value comfort? Those are several of the key questions we answer in this guide on choosing the best ear protection for NASCAR.
In this guide, we share tips on choosing the right hearing protection, our top 5 picks, reviews of each of our picks, and options for the whole family. Before we look over an overview of our top 5 picks, let’s first consider the NASCAR decibel level.
How loud is a NASCAR race?
- The pit reaches and exceeds 130 decibels
- Test results at Bristol showed 96 dB readings for spectators in the stands
- 114 dB exposure for racers
Let’s just say that 130 dB is not something anyone should expose their ears to without hearing protection. According to OSHA standard 1910.95 for Occupational noise exposure, workers must wear hearing protection when exposed to 85 dB or more over an 8-hour period.
Since NASCAR spectators are exposed to sounds well beyond 85 dB, fans should invest in good earplugs, earmuffs, or scanner headsets for the whole family.
|#1) Howard Leight by Honeywell Sync Hi-Vis AM/FM/Mp3 Radio Earmuff|
|#2) 3M Digital WorkTunes Hearing Protector and AM/FM Stereo Radio|
|#3) Koss QZ-99 Noise Reduction Stereophone|
|#4) 3M Peltor Sport Small Hearing Protector|
|#5) Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs|
Reviews of the Best Headphones for NASCAR Races
The first several options in the chart above give you everything you need for the race minus the scanner. Headsets by 3M and Howard Leight provide the highest level of hearing protection while allowing you to tune into the radio broadcast and for use as a NASCAR scanner headset.
Below, we share more detailed reviews of each headset along with the pros & cons of ownership.
#1) Howard Leight by Honeywell Sync Hi-Vis AM/FM/Mp3 Radio Earmuff
Howard Leight manufactures some of the most reliable hearing protection equipment in the world, and this set of earmuffs is the ideal choice from their collection for a NASCAR race. The Sync Eamuff is an all-in-one option that provides hearing protection, an AM/FM radio to tune into the race broadcast, and an AUX input jack (cable included) to turn the earmuff into a scanner headset.
Of the options in this guide, the Sync Earmuff offers one of the highest NRRs at 25 dB. NRR or Noise Reduction Rating is an estimate of how many decibels a piece of hearing protection equipment reduces incoming noise by. For example, if a NASCAR fan experiences 96 dB sound levels in the stands, the Sync Earmuff has the power to reduce a 96 dB sound to 71 dB max.
Other than sound reduction, the Sync Earmuff is a comfortable headset that can be worn by most users for the duration of a race without experiencing discomfort. The base package includes the first set of two AA batteries, and the headset has a battery life of up to 100 hours or more. Lastly, the integrated LCD screen allows the user to preset up to 10 radio stations.
- The ability to tune into the radio broadcast and use your own scanner
- Snap-in ear cushions are easy to maintain and replace
- Program up to 10 of your favorite radio stations
- Recommended by NASCAR fans for use at the track
- Excellent battery life
- Most powerful noise reduction of the headsets in our guide
- Enough volume to hear your scanner clearly
- Higher price than Koss QZ-99 headphones
- May get uncomfortable when worn for long hours
- Volume might be too low for activities such as mowing the lawn
#2) 3M Digital WorkTunes Hearing Protector and AM/FM Stereo Radio
Another option that offers just about the same functionality as the Honeywell Sync earmuff is the 3M WorkTunes model. At the time of this writing, the WorkTunes headset does cost less than the comparable Honeywell unit above. With the WorkTunes headset, you have the option to tune into the race broadcast via the AM/FM radio and connect your own scanner.
One advantage of this headset for radio fans is the option to program up to 50 AM/FM stations. Additionally, the headset provides voice prompts to make customizations easy without removing the headset. Plus, it tells you when the batteries are running low. Other highlights of this headset are the thick padded headband, 24 dB NRR, and you may find the 3M earcups more comfortable than the Honeywell cups when worn for long hours.
One point we do want to highlight is it might not be possible to listen to the radio broadcast and your scanner at the same time. Several fans said it is possible, while a couple of other fans said it’s not. So if you plan to listen to your radio and scanner at the same time, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re choosing the 90541-80025T model to get that functionality.
- More affordable than the Honeywell Sync at the time of this writing
- They do an excellent job of reducing car & engine noise
- You might find them more comfortable than Honeywell and Koss
- Sharp, clear sound at the race
- Better than paying high-dollar for a rental headset at the track
- Powerful enough to use while mowing the lawn
- Good volume
- A couple of complaints about not being able to listen to a scanner and the radio broadcast at the same time
- A bit heavier than the other earmuffs in our guide
- Several complaints about the volume being too low
#3) Koss QZ-99 Noise Reduction Stereophone
The final scanner headset in our guide is this one by Koss. Of the headsets in this guide, the QZ-99 is the most recommended model by NASCAR fans with scanners. However, the differences between this model and the 3M and Honeywell models above are no AM/FM radio, and the QZ-99 headphones are wired. If you prefer a wireless headset with an AM/FM radio that also functions as a headset scanner, then the 3M and Honeywell models above are better choices.
Another factor to consider is noise reduction. Unlike 3M and Honeywell, Koss does not test its noise reduction headphones to offer an NRR. Considering 3M and Honeywell are top players in the hearing protection department, the QZ-99 headset most likely does not provide as much ear protection.
Outside of those considerations, the QZ-99 remains one of the top NASCAR hearing protection devices available for the money. Areas that Koss excels in are sound quality, sound isolation, and comfort. All things considered, you may find that the Koss headset delivers better sound quality and more comfort when worn for long hours than the 3M and Honeywell headsets.
- Rugged construction with high-quality materials for the price
- You may find them more comfortable than 3M and Honeywell earmuffs
- Ample padding in the headband and earcups
- The conversations come through clearly on the scanner
- Noise reduction blocks out engine noise
- Koss sound quality is more reliable than 3M and Honeywell
- No NRR listed
- The volume knob may cause some static in the earpiece when adjusted
- No option to listen to your scanner and the radio broadcast at the same time
#4) 3M Peltor Sport Small Hearing Protector
The best hearing protection for kids and small adults at a NASCAR race is this 3M Peltor Sport earmuff. This earmuff is cheap, lightweight, comfortable, and provides adequate hearing protection for your children at the race. Compared to most Peltor earmuffs, this set is much slimmer and less likely to cause your head or your child’s head to sweat during the race.
Additionally, Peltor earmuffs are the gold-standard in hearing protection and built for comfort first. Your child will get many uses out of these, and you’ll feel good knowing your children’s ears have the protection they need throughout the race. Compared to using earplugs, an earmuff is easier to pop on and off.
The one consideration to make before choosing earmuffs over earplugs for your child is the NRR. The Peltor Sport earmuff has a 22 dB NRR while good earplugs have a 30 dB NRR or more. Depending on how close you’ll be to the track and how much engine noise you plan to encounter on race day, earplugs may be the better choice, especially if the loud sounds startle your child.
- Our top-rated hearing protection device for children at a NASCAR race
- Small enough to fit toddlers as young as 2-years-old
- NASCAR fan parents have no complaints about discomfort
- Sturdy construction
- Great price for a Peltor earmuff
- Good for a wide variety of uses
- They trap less heat than thicker Peltor earmuff models
- Lower NRR than earplugs
- Potentially too small for children with large heads
#5) Best Earplugs for NASCAR – Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam
We typically prefer Honeywell Laser Lite earplugs, but since NASCAR races can get hot, Mack’s Ultra Soft is the best earplug for NASCAR races. The reason is that the Laser Lite earplugs by Honeywell tend to bleed colors with perspiration, and Mack’s foam plugs don’t have that problem. Additionally, foam earplugs are better than silicone plugs since silicone plugs are more likely to get gooey in the heat.
Several of the advantages of choosing Mack’s brand over others are the reliability, they’re made in the USA, high 32 dB NRR, and the ultra-soft foam is actually ultra-soft. One thing I’ve noticed with other brands is the quality of the foam is sometimes inconsistent. I’ve dealt with problems with Hearos in the past due to firm foam. With Mack’s, I’ve never had any problems with product consistency.
Lastly, a 50-pair jar of Mack’s is mighty affordable and will last the whole family a while when used as hearing protection at auto races. One drawback of Mack’s plugs compared to Laser Lite is Mack’s plugs don’t come in individual packs, so you may want to prepare little containers for the family to keep the plugs separated during the race.
- Mack’s earplugs don’t bleed dye when you sweat
- Ultra-soft foam is comfortable for all size ear canals
- Great value for the money
- Consistent quality
- Easy to insert with slow rebound times
- High 32 dB NRR is good for spectators close to the track
- Made in the USA
- Not individually sealed
- You may prefer the convenience of earmuffs over earplugs, especially for children
When choosing the best hearing protection for NASCAR races, it’s best to stick with headsets that offer an NRR you can count on by Honeywell or 3M for the most confidence that your ears are being protected. 3M Peltor is the highest quality earmuff on the market. The Koss QZ-99 headset is popular among NASCAR fans with scanners who desire clear sound quality. Our only qualm with the QZ-99 headset is no NRR listed.
As for earplugs, soft foam plugs are the best option since silicone plugs can melt or get gooey in the heat. Plus, foam plugs stay in children’s ears better than silicone plugs. Finally, if you want to listen to the radio broadcast and your scanner at the same time, be sure to carefully check which 3M or Honeywell model you’re choosing before you buy.