We researched and tested Bluetooth hearing protection and noise cancelling headphones for 18 hours last week.
To help you find the best to listen to music, audiobooks or take phone calls while mowing the lawn, using a pressure washer, weed wacker, shrub trimmer or chainsaw.
Okay, let’s get started.
The best pair of Bluetooth hearing protection headphones will have 5 traits:
5 Traits of Great Lawn Mowing Headphones
- You can easily hear the music, podcast or phone call over the lawn mower engine noise without having to blast the sound volume. This can be accomplished in 3 ways:
- Earmuff (over ear) or earplug (in ear) hearing protection with Bluetooth speakers built-in
- Noise cancelling headphones
- Earbud headphones with regular earmuff hearing protection worn overtop.
- The headphones are comfortable to wear and don’t fall off when moving your head around while mowing
- Be wireless with good battery life (around 10+ hours at least) and Bluetooth to connect with phone
- The best headphones for lawn mowing at your house will be affordable – preferably under $100
- Since they’ll be used in outdoor dirty, dusty, wet environments they’ll need to be capable of withstanding rough handling.
Jump to the Reviews
Using those 5 traits as buying criteria we go in-depth below to explain the 5 best headphones and Bluetooth hearing protection to use when mowing your lawn or with other loud power tools.
5 Things Everyone Ought To Know Before Buying Headphones or Bluetooth Hearing Protection to Use When Mowing the Lawn or Pressure Washing
1. Is listening to music (and operating your phone to find music) when lawn mowing or pressure washing safe?
It can be safe with proper risk management.
The argument against using them is: with headphones on listening to music you will be less aware of your surroundings. In addition, operating your phone to change songs or apps is further distraction from the job.
Let’s look at dangers when mowing the lawn with noise cancelling headphones or hearing protection with speakers:
- Probably won’t hear when the mower blade is hitting a rock or obstruction thus increasing risk of failure of mower or spitting the object out and hitting either you or someone nearby
- If you’re on a zero-turn ride-on mower that can turn on a dime it’s possible you (for whatever reason) decide to turn quick and hit someone. Possible your kid was running up behind you saying he/she wanted to jump on and ride with you. However unlikely, it’s possible.
- If you’re on a busy street mowing your front lawn you could come out into the street to turn around the mower and head back and miss a car coming straight at you because you couldn’t hear their engine.
- Since you tend to pressure wash a hose length (20 – 50 ft) away from the loud pressure washer you won’t hear any weird noises from the machine which may indicate failure.
- If you get a phone call coming through you may – without thinking – remove one hand from the pressure gun to take the call causing your other hand to take the full control of the spray gun. It’s possible you lose control and spray someone in the face or damage property.
And what about other outdoor equipment:
- If you’re using a chainsaw with a spotter you might not hear what they tell you. Of course, if you have a spotter you probably won’t be playing music in your hearing protection… But you never know.
- If you’re using a weed wacker and someone is trying to tell you they are walking up to pass you on the right you won’t hear them. You could hit them with the weed wacker or it could spit some rock up and hit them as they are passing.
How To Control The Hazards
You can make listening to music while using loud outdoor equipment safe by being aware of the hazards and controlling them.
Here’s what you should do.
First, you should ask yourself 6 questions about the task:
- Am I fit for work and ready?
- Are you rested? Hungover? Had way too much coffee?
- Am I in the area where the task is to be performed?
- Head to where you are mowing or doing the work so you can get a good view of the hazards.
- Is there anything new or different?
- Is it raining today? Are there obstructions in the way (toys, chairs, bikes etc.)? Are there other people working nearby?
- Am I new to the task or working with anyone new?
- Is this your first time using your lawn mower or pressure washer or other equipment? Are you getting your son or daughter to mow the lawn for their first time?
- Is this a dangerous area that needs to be blocked off?
- Let’s say you live in a cul-de-sac with a grass island in the middle and you need to mow that…Would be good to put some orange cones up to warn drivers. Or maybe your backyard doesn’t have a fence and there’s a risk of dogs or other kids coming into the line of fire.
- Do I have the correct protective equipment and tools?
- For mowing the grass you’ll want closed-in shoes (no sandals), eye protection and hearing protection at the very least. Add in long pants and gloves to be safe.
Next you should think through the controls for the hazards (some examples for mowing your back lawn):
- Hazard: You feel tired and agitated. Control: Take a break, have some water and come back in 30 mins.
- Hazard: There’s bikes and toys and tennis balls lying around the backyard. Control: Move them off the grass before starting.
- Hazard: It’s a new mower and your first time using it. Control: Read the User Manual and go slow.
Yes, this might seem overkill but you’d be surprised how many people get injured using outdoor power equipment at home. At work, you’d never do a job without personal protective equipment but at home many people do.
Better safe than sorry.
2. Which are better for your needs: noise cancelling headphones or hearing protection with Bluetooth speakers?
To know which is better for your needs you’ll need to know the differences.
Have a look at the chart below showing the different pitch and loudness of common sounds.
It is recommended you protect your ears at anything above 80 dB (orange and red colors). A lawn mower is mostly low frequency at about 100 dB.
The purpose of showing you this chart is because active noise cancelling only works with low frequency and some mid frequency sounds. To help block high frequency, passive noise cancelling is used – passive just means no power/battery is needed and instead soundproofing materials block the sound from entering your ear.
So what’s the difference between the headphones and hearing protection?
- Noise cancelling headphones use a microphone to listen to the ambient sound – in a coffee shop, for example – and then produce (using internal electronics) a negative sound to cancel out the ambient. This works really well for planes, coffee shops and gyms but not so great for standing next to a jackhammer. These headphones – especially the over ear style – will also use sound isolation to block harmful frequencies entering your ear.
- Bluetooth hearing protection blocks the noise coming into your ears using sound proof materials to isolate your eardrum. They then have speakers inside the barrier to let music play at a regular volume.
Noise cancelling pros and cons
- Pros: Best sound quality.
- Cons: More expensive. Requires more battery power.
Noise isolation (Bluetooth hearing protection) pros and cons
- Pros: Affordable.
- Cons: Will make it harder to hear good sounds like a person talking to you to warn you about something.
Active vs. passive noise isolation/cancelling
Noise cancelling headphones use active noise cancelling by having a microphone listen to the ambient outside noise and then – in real-time – use internal electronics to cancel that noise with an opposite noise.
Passive noise isolation just means blocking the noise with soundproofing material. Earmuff hearing protection is the perfect example of passive noise isolation – it blocks the harmful sound frequencies from entering your ear.
Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Count as Hearing Protection – Are They OSHA Approved?
First off, OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They set regulations for work safety, including hearing protection.
They recommend not distracting yourself from the job at hand by listening to music – whether inside noise cancelling headphones or using regular earbuds. However, they have approved some for use.
3. The earbud and earmuff headphone style pros and cons.
Are earbud or earmuff style headphones better for use with outdoor power equipment?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:
Earbud in ear style
- Cooler for use in hot weather
- Smaller and lighter so easier to carry in pocket
- Doesn’t matter what headwear you have (hardhat, other hat) they just go in your ear unlike earmuffs with the headband over your head
- Aren’t affected by you wearing eye protection or sunglasses as the over ear headphones can be big enough to make the sunglasses uncomfortable
- Usually more affordable
- Less secure in your ear and can fall out
- Lower sound quality
- Easier to misplace or lose because they are so small
Earmuff over ear style
- Higher sound quality
- Feel more secure and locked in place
- Big earmuffs give off a better visual cue so people around you know you can’t hear them
- Bulky and less portable – you can’t just put them in your pocket and go
- In warm weather they make your ears sweat
- The earmuff fits snug around your ear and if you wear sunglasses/glasses/eye protection they can push up against the glasses frame cause some discomfort.
4. Wired vs. wireless when using power tools.
We definitely preferred the wireless headphones compared to dealing with annoying wires.
A trick is to run the wire under your shirt to keep it out of the way. But the friction still causes it to yank on the earbud or earmuff when moving around doing your work.
5. Can Bluetooth hearing protection also be used on the plane, on a run and on public transport?
Yes, they work with any Bluetooth device: your laptop, iPad, smart TV, smartphone. You can use them the same way you would use any regular headphones.
The Best of Each Type:
We believe the hearing protection with built in Bluetooth speakers are the best option for use in loud environments – like mowing the lawn or using other loud equipment. Whether you like over ear or in ear is of course up to you.
However, we also wanted to include the best earmuff and earbud noise cancelling headphones (for under $100) because they have higher sound quality and are more versatile for everyday use.
Let’s jump right in:
Great for Work Around The House
The best way to listen to music or audiobooks when mowing the lawn is with the 3M WorkTunes Bluetooth hearing protection.
After mowing a 1/2 acre lawn it is clear the 3M WorkTunes are built to last and offer good sound quality along with amazing noise isolation. Aside from a slight hum it blocks the mower noise so you can easily hear your music.
Aside from some sweating around the ears (it was warm: 80 F/27 C) these headphones were comfortable and secure even when bending over to empty the grass clipping bag.
The battery life on these is great (30+ hours) and they give you a warning when the battery is medium and low.
And the best part about these is the price. They are often on special so check the link to see current price.
OSHA Compliant Earbuds
These earbuds were amazing at blocking out noise to allow a pleasant music, podcast or phone call experience. There was no blasting of the volume.
We consider these ISOtunes Pro earbuds a tie with the above 3M WorkTunes. Just choose if you prefer over ear or in ear headphones.
It was a bit weird how the controller for the headphones (on/off, volume up/down etc.) was so close to the earbud – you couldn’t see what you were pressing. But after a bit of practice and memory it wasn’t an issue.
These are a bit more expensive than the 3M WorkTunes but if used properly block an extra 3 decibels. A downside of how small and portable these are is the battery is smaller and lasts 10+ hours instead of 30+ hours for the 3M WorkTunes.
If you will be working in a warm environment these are your best bet since they allow your ears to breath…The full earmuff ones cause your ears to sweat – who even knew your ears sweat?
If you like the earbud style for portability and comfort reasons then these are your best option for mowing the lawn.
Great Value Purchase
The best noise cancelling headphones for mowing your lawn are well under $100 from Anker – called the Soundcore Life Q20.
They have 40+ hour battery life with active noise cancelling of low and mid-range frequencies of up to 35 decibels – essentially turning a lawn mower noise level into a quiet chat with your friend.
Great for much more than just noisy yard work these headphones will also give you a more enjoyable flying experience blocking out the engine noise while still allowing you to hear the safety instructions. And if the battery runs out your can use them wired – a huge plus.
If you’re in the market for a multi-use set of headphones then these might be your best option.
Great Value Earbuds under $100
If you want active noise cancelling and prefer the earbud style these are a great value.
TOZO offers an affordable alternative to major brands that doesn’t lack in quality.
With these headphones they have hit a sweet spot in budget noise cancelling headphones with decent sound and noise cancelling for way under $100.
5. Best Regular Earbud Headphones + Earmuff Hearing Protection Combo
Do you already own a pair of earbuds and earmuff hearing protection?
You could just put the earmuffs overtop the earbuds and go about your business.
Might not be the most comfortable or efficient method but it’ll get the job done. And if you already own both it’s free.
The earmuff style Bluetooth hearing protection option from 3M are affordable, rugged and have great battery life. The only real downside is the large earmuff/soundproofing blocks off air circulation and your ears sweat/get hot.
The earbud style from ISOtunes keep you cooler and are more portable (you can chuck them in your pocket) but they feel a little less secure – like they could fall out if you don’t put them in 100% perfect.
The noise cancelling style from Anker offers the best sound quality and works great at cancelling loud outdoor equipment noise. They also look more stylish can you’ll find yourself using them for than just noisy yard work.