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While the basic function of earplugs is to cancel out noise, they have various uses and benefits. These include helping sleep, workplace use, or use at music concerts.
The best earplugs for each person will vary according to a range of factors, including what they want to use them for and how comfortable they feel.
Earplugs come in different materials, such as thermoplastic, silicone, foam, and wax. Shapes and sizes also vary. Other considerations include ease of use and lifespan.
There are many things to look for and research when purchasing earplugs. Here are some basic tips:
- Earplugs for sleep: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that approximately one-third of all adults in the United States experience sleep deprivation. A recent study of hospital patients shows a link between using earplugs and facemasks with lower arousal during sleep.
- Earplugs for comfort: Research shows that comfort levels are a key deciding factor in earplug use. How an earplug fits often depends on ear canal size and where they sit while a person sleeps. A person may need to try a couple of options to find their ideal match.
- Earplugs for noise cancellation: The noise reduction rating (NRR) provides a rough guideline on how earplugs and similar noise cancellation devices can block sound. The higher the NRR rating, the better the sound blocking effect.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite High Visibility Disposable Foam Earplugs
These vibrant yellow and magenta earplugs help visibility in the workplace. They also offer a high NRR of 32 decibels (dB).
The T-shape, self-adjustable foam design means insertion and removal is relatively easy, with the makers claiming a near universal fit for all ear sizes.
A soil-resistant, closed-cell foam skin prevents dirt buildup. Online reviews have been positive, although some comments refer to them falling out at night.
Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs
These moldable, silicone earplugs offer hypoallergenic, waterproof protection. They work as a cover or shield, so they do not enter directly into the ear canal. Recommended to alleviate pressure and pain during flying, they also claim to block out snoring.
According to some reports, the silicone putty mold is more comfortable than custom-molded earplugs. Their NRR is 22 dB. Mack’s also offers a range of other soft foam earplug options, with higher NRR Ratings up to 33 dB.
Online reviews praise their versatility, from swimming to sleep. However, some comments refer to discomfort and the earplugs falling out easily.
Kuyax Premium Silicone Ear Plugs
Washable and reusable, this noise-canceling design has an NRR of 32 dB. These earplugs are made from high-grade silicone, hypoallergenic, and built to withstand different noise and pressure types. This includes concerts, watersports, and construction sites.
Suitable for children and adults, they should fit any size ear canal. It is possible to cut them into parts to fit smaller ear sizes.
Recommended for side sleepers as no long ends stick out. Online reviews are positive overall.
3M Earplugs, E-A-Rsoft Yellow Neons 312-1250
Designed with soft, slow-recovery foam, these earplugs are easy to roll down for quick and easy use. Each pair also comes in a hygienic poly bag.
Commonly used in agriculture, the automotive industry, and construction, they offer an NRR of 33dB.
The makers state that the universal size fits most ear canals. Some online reviewers note that the latex-free, polyurethane design did not fit larger ear canals.
Mpow 055A Super Soft Foam Earplugs
Made from non-toxic and low-pressure polyurethane, the soft-foam material slowly expands in the ear. They offer a 32 dB NRR.
The manufacturer has designed these earplugs to reduce the sound of snoring and harmful loud noises. A person should discard them after several uses or once they have become dirty or soiled.
Online reviews are good overall, although people report issues with the size and keeping them in the ear.
ANBOW Silicone Ear Plugs
Reusable, washable, and hypoallergenic, this product offers an NRR of 32 dB. Made of high-grade silicone material, ANBOW claims these earplugs can last for years. The manufacturer has designed these ergonomic, ultra-soft material earplugs to block all types of noise while focusing on comfort.
Individually wrapped in a plastic storage box, there is a bonus waterproof travel pouch. They are different from foam-type designs, as you twist and insert the earplug.
Online reviews praise the optional string attachment, making them more difficult to lose. Other comments question the level of noise cancellation and comfort.
World’s Finest Mighty Plugs
Made from natural beeswax, they are hypoallergenic, reusable, waterproof, and ideal for swimmers.
Fitting all ear canal sizes, their NRR rating is very high at 34dB. The brand claims their product is great for improving sleep, relaxation, studying, concerts, and other loud events.
Online reviews are generally positive. However, some reviews say they are ineffective and fragile.
Hearprotek Memory Foam Eartips
These noise-canceling, sound-blocking earplugs have memory foam ear tips and wings to enhance capabilities. They come in small, medium, and large sizes for a customized fit. Made from soft, hypoallergenic memory foam, the company have designed the tips to suit side sleepers.
These earplugs do not claim to block out all noise. However, with an NRR of 33 dB, they will muffle disturbing noises.
Eargrace Noise Reduction Ear Plugs
The two-layer flange ergonomic design is built for small ear canals, blocking out 32dB of noise.
Also suitable for side-sleepers, they are reusable and have an attenuation filter. This helps to cut out noise that affects sleep and general disturbances from the office, construction, or city.
Decibullz Custom Molded High-Fidelity Earplugs
These thermo-fit molded earpieces have high-fidelity acoustic filters and will suit people with tinnitus or who attend concerts and events. The reheated and reshaped thermoplastic earpieces fit different ear canals. Their NRR rating is 12 dB.
These earplugs come with three sizes of triple flange tips and a snap-close carrying pouch.
The Decibullz earplugs are also compatible with other products in their line. For example, an earplug to earphone kit is available. These are ideal for musicians and regular concert-goers.
It is also important to remember the potential adverse effects of earplugs, including pushing earwax deeper into the ear. This may increase the risk of tinnitus or hearing loss. Bacteria can also build up on certain earplugs, which may lead to infection.
Here are a few alternatives for people struggling with noise:
- White noise machines: These devices produce a constant background noise that can drown out other, distracting noises. A range of white noise machines is available for purchase online.
- Sleep apps: There are dozens of sleep apps online, offering relaxing melodies, noise cancellation, sounds of nature, and sleep trackers.
- Headband headphones: These have soft speaker inserts for back and side sleepers. They can also play white noise from an app. A range is available for purchase online.
- Music: Background music may be effective in helping distract from other noises.
- Soundproofing: Although it may be an expensive option, insulated windows and doors can help cancel out noise.
There are numerous factors to consider when purchasing earplugs. These include cost, ear size, comfort, and their intended use.
Investigate online reviews and return policies for different brands before buying, as there are many options to consider.