The Best Earbuds For Construction Workers (and Manual Laborers in General)

Written by Pete Anthony

picking the best earbuds for construction workers

Construction work is obviously important, but it can also be boring and repetitive. It’s not surprising that construction workers are interested in listening to music with headphones or earbuds to make the work day less tedious. Modern headphones and earbuds have additional features like noise cancellation that are appealing to construction workers as well.

There are more headphones and earbuds than ever to choose from, and while that’s great for the consumer, it can be also be overwhelming. What should you look for in a pair of headphones or earbuds that you want to use while doing construction work? And which specific products are the best for that? That’s what this article will cover.

Does OSHA Allow Earbuds and Listening to Music on the Job?

Construction work obviously requires a certain degree of concentration, and the stakes are relatively high as well – mistakes or negligence can result in expensive damages and setbacks, or worse, personal injury. As such, workers might wonder if using headphones or earbuds on the job is unsafe or possibly even illegal.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for setting safety standards and laws regarding workplace safety in America, and while they have many regulations surrounding hearing protection, there is no specific OSHA regulation prohibiting the use of headphones or earbuds while doing construction work. However, they do explicitly state that playing music with headphones or earbuds is not a proper substitute for hearing protection.

Also note that attempting to drown out external noise by simply raising the volume won’t do anything to help hearing protection and will in fact likely increase the risk of hearing damage.

Are Earbuds Better Than Headphones for Construction Workers?

Yes, mainly because a hard hat, which is generally required to be worn at all times on a construction site, won’t fit properly over most pairs of headphones with a headband. Headphones are also more prone to sliding and moving around while you’re working, while a good fitting pair of earbuds will have no problem staying 100% secure.

I generally do not recommend using headphones for construction work or other manual labor, especially when now there are a plethora of really great earbuds to choose from that will work way better.

What Makes a Pair of Earbuds Good For Construction Workers?

There are a lot of great audio products out there, but for different reasons and situations. These are the important factors for making a pair of earbuds specifically good for doing construction work:

All-Weather Water and Dust Proofing

Most earbuds now are at least water resistant, which is fine for basic exercising and such, but fewer of them are dust and debris resistant as well, probably because the average person doesn’t deal with very dirty and dusty environments often. But construction workers obviously do regularly deal with a lot of dust and debris while working, so having a dust resistant pair of earbuds is particularly important.

The Ingress Protection code, formatted IPXY, is the official standard for water and dust proofing for electronic products. The “X” digit denotes the degree of dust/debris proofing, and the “Y” digit denotes the degree of water proofing. You want to look for a pair of earbuds that has an IP code of IP54 or higher, which in my opinion is the minimum level of protection needed to withstand the environment of a construction site.

Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Modes

One of the main reasons a construction worker might want to use earbuds is to help with hearing protection, and active noise cancellation is a great technology for doing that. Many earbuds, even inexpensive ones, come with great ANC.

Construction workers need to be able to hear and communicate with each other as well, so, being able to easily toggle ANC on and off and switch to transparency mode – which helps you hear outside noise more clearly rather than blocking it out – is a great feature to have as well.

Very Secure Fit

When you’re moving around and working a pair of earbuds is more prone to falling out, and while a dropped earbud isn’t normally a huge deal in regular everyday life, it can be disastrous on a construction site – maybe it plummets to its death if you happen to be several stories up, or maybe it winds up lost in the dirt or concrete mix.

Additionally, good external noise attenuation is significantly a function of good natural isolation from a tight and secure fit. So, if minimizing the risk of an earbud falling out and good noise blocking are primary concerns of yours – which is probably true for most construction workers – then you want to go with something that has a firmer and more secure fit. Ear hooks are also a great added security measure for construction workers.

Long Battery Life for Wireless Earbuds

You obviously want a pair of wireless earbuds to not die before the workday is done. Many products specialize on long battery life that lasts 8+ hours on a single charge, and looking for one of those is a good idea.

Reliable and Easy to Use Onboard Touch or Button Controls

Between constantly moving around and having your hands full with tools, you want a pair of earbuds that is easy to operate, with reliable controls that are easy to execute, rather than having to constantly pull out and fumble with your phone or other source device.

Good Durability and Warranty Coverage

A pair of earbuds is going to be much more prone to damage and wear and tear on a construction site than, say, in an office building. Most headphones and earbuds have a one year warranty, but some do have a longer one. It’s a good idea to look for a pair of earbuds that, in addition to having a high double digit IP code, has a longer than average warranty of 18 months to 2 years.

My Specific Recommendations

Now that you understand what to look for in a pair of earbuds that will be good for construction work, I’ll give some specific product recommendations.

The Best Wireless Earbuds for Construction Workers – the JLab Epic Air Sport

JLab Epic Air Sport ANC True Wireless Bluetooth 5 Earbuds, Headphones for Working Out, IP66 Sweatproof, 15-Hour Battery Life, 55-Hour Charging Case, Music Controls, 3 EQ Sound Settings

click to see zoomable images on Amazon (affiliate link)

JLab is a good company that has really dialed into the active use niche, and the Epic Air Sport is great for that in pretty much every way. It’s fully IP66 dustproof and water resistant, it has great isolation and ANC, it has a good secure fit with the added earhooks built in, and it has industry leading battery life and warranty coverage.

Get the Epic Air Sport Wireless ANC earbuds on Amazon (affiliate link)

The inexpensive version of this (without ANC), the GO Air Sport, is a great alternative budget option if you don’t need noise mitigation so much.

Great Ultra Lightweight Alternative – the Soundcore Space A40

Soundcore by Anker Space A40 Adaptive Active Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds, Reduce Noise by Up to 98%, Ultra Long 50H Playtime, 10H Single Playtime, Hi-Res Sound, Comfortable Fit, Wireless Charge

click to see zoomable images on Amazon (affiliate link)

If you’re looking for something that’s compact and nonintrusive, the Space A40 is another great option. It’s very small, lightweight, and comfortable. It also has industry leading ANC if mitigating as much noise as possible is a primary concern of yours.

Get the Space A40 wireless ANC earbuds on Amazon (affiliate link)

Full Space A40 review

Best Budget Earbuds for Construction Workers – the Elgin Ruckus

Elgin Ruckus Earplug Headphones, ANSI Certified 25dB Noise Reduction, IP65 Rated for Dust and Water Resistance, Ideal for Construction and Outdoor Work, Durable w/Kevlar-Braided Cables, Stealth Black

click to see zoomable images on Amazon (affiliate link)

Wired earbuds seem to be on their way out, but some people do still prefer them and many good ones are still being made. Elgin specializes in making audio products for use at manual labor type jobs, and the Ruckus has an OSHA compliant noise reduction rating (NRR) of 25 decibels for a very inexpensive price.

Get the Ruckus wired earbuds on Amazon (affiliate link)

Frequently Asked Questions

Do noise cancelling headphones or earbuds block out construction noise?

Even the best active noise cancellation won’t fully block out all construction noise, but, it can definitely help reduce it to a volume that’s safe and significantly less distracting.

Are Apple Air Pods good for construction workers?

No, regular AirPods are not good for construction work don’t have noise cancellation or tips for a secure fit. AirPods Pro, however, do have both of those things and can definitely work well for construction work in a lot of cases.

Pete Anthony has had a lifelong affinity for music, and more recently has become an anti audiophile snob who wants great sound to be accessible and enjoyable by anyone. Without needing to break the bank. Read his full author page here.