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Earplugs can help cancel out noise to promote sleep, improve focus in workplaces and public transit, and protect the ears at loud concerts or during swimming.

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Earplugs are small products that people put in their ears to reduce outside noise. People may use them in different situations, including:

  • During sleep: About one-third of all adults in the United States experience sleep deprivation. A recent study in hospital patients shows that using earplugs and eye masks may help people wake up less often during sleep.
  • For comfort: Research shows that comfort is a key deciding factor in earplug use. How well earplugs fit 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.
  • To otherwise cancel out noise: The noise reduction rating (NRR) roughly indicates how well earplugs and similar devices can block sound. The higher the NRR rating, the more noise is blocked out.

Earplugs may be made of thermoplastic, silicone, foam, or wax. Shapes and sizes also vary. People may wish to consider the following when purchasing earplugs:

  • Price: The price may depend on the materials and whether the earplugs are reusable or disposable.
  • Quantity: Some companies sell single-use earplugs in bulk, and these may be a better option for workplaces, such as construction sites.
  • Reusable vs. single-use: Some earplugs are washable and reusable, while others should be disposed of after a single use. Other earplugs are multiple-use, but people should dispose of them when they become dirty.
  • Size and shape: Many earplugs fit most ear canal sizes and shapes. However, some companies have products that are tailored for different ear canal sizes.
  • Materials: Silicone earplugs are hypoallergenic, whereas foam plugs may resist a buildup of dirt.

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 with visibility in the workplace. They also offer a high NRR of 32 decibels (dB).

The T-shape and foam composition can make insertion and removal relatively easy. The makers claim that their product has a near-universal fit and that the soil-resistant, closed-cell foam skin prevents dirt buildup.

Online reviews have been positive, though some say that the earplugs fall out at night.

Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs

These moldable, silicone earplugs offer hypoallergenic, waterproof protection. They cover the opening of the ear canal, rather than fitting inside it.

The makers say that their product alleviates pressure and pain during flying and can block out snoring. The NRR is 22 dB, but the company offers other products with ratings of up to 33 dB.

According to some reports, silicone putty plugs are more comfortable than custom-molded ones. Some online reviews praise the versatility of this product, while others report discomfort and say that the earplugs fell away easily.

Kuyax Premium Silicone Ear Plugs

These washable, reusable earplugs have an NRR of 32 dB. They are made of high-grade, hypoallergenic silicone and are designed for different noise and pressure environments, such as concerts, watersport arenas, and construction sites.

The makers highlight that a person can cut the material to make it more suitable for children and adults. Because no long ends stick out, these earplugs are suitable for side sleepers, the company says.

Online reviews are positive overall.

3M Earplugs, E-A-Rsoft Yellow Neons 312-1250

Containing soft, slow-recovery foam, these latex-free earplugs are easy to roll down and insert. Each pair comes in a hygienic bag.

Commonly used in agriculture, the automotive industry, and construction, the company says, these earplugs have an NRR of 33 dB.

The makers say that their product is sized for universal use. However, some online reviewers say that these do not fit larger ear canals.

Mpow 055A Super Soft Foam Earplugs

These earplugs are made from nontoxic, low-pressure polyurethane foam that slowly expands in the ear. They have an NRR of 32 dB.

The manufacturer has designed these to block snoring and harmful loud noises. A person should discard them after several uses or once they become dirty.

Online reviews are good overall, although some people report issues with the size and say that these earplugs do not stay in the ear.

ANBOW Silicone Ear Plugs

These reusable, washable, and hypoallergenic earplugs have an NRR of 32 dB. The makers say that the ultra-soft, high-grade silicone material can last for years and that their product is designed for comfort.

These earplugs come with a plastic storage box and a waterproof travel pouch. A person does not roll these between the fingertips, as they would with foam plugs, but instead twists them during insertion to ensure the right fit.

Some online reviews praise the optional string attachment, while others question the level of noise cancellation and comfort.

World’s Finest Mighty Plugs

Made from natural beeswax, these are hypoallergenic, reusable, and waterproof. They have an NRR of 34 dB.

The makers say that their product fits all ear canal sizes and is great during sleep, relaxation, study, and concerts and other loud activities.

Online reviews are generally positive, though some say that these earplugs are ineffective and fragile.

Hearprotek Memory Foam Eartips

These earplugs have foam ear tips and wings to enhance their fit and function. Each case has small, medium, and large sizes.

Made from soft, hypoallergenic memory foam, these have been designed to suit side sleepers.

They have a high NRR of 33 dB.

Eargrace Noise Reduction Ear Plugs

The two-layer, flange ergonomic design is built for small ear canals and suitable for side sleepers.

This reusable product blocks out 32 dB of noise and has an attenuation filter that helps block noise that affects sleep, as well as general disturbances from the office, construction site, or city street.

Decibullz Custom Molded High-Fidelity Earplugs

These molded earpieces have high-fidelity acoustic filters and suit people with tinnitus, according to the makers, who also say that their product fits all ear canal sizes. The NRR rating is 12 dB.

The earplugs have three sizes of tips and come with a snap-close carrying pouch.

Decibullz earplugs are compatible with other products that the company sells. For example, an earplug-to-earphone kit is available. These may be ideal for musicians and regular concertgoers.

Wearing earplugs can have negative effects, including pushing earwax deeper into the ear. This may increase the risk of tinnitus or hearing loss. In addition, bacteria can build up on some earplugs, which may lead to an infection.

Here are a few alternatives:

  • White noise machines: These produce a continuous background sound that can drown out distracting noises. A range of white noise machines is available for purchase online.
  • Sleep apps: There are dozens of these, and they offer 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 help redirect attention from distracting noises.
  • Soundproofing: While this may be an expensive option, insulated windows and doors can help cancel out noise.

Below are some frequently asked questions about earplugs.

Is it safe to wear earplugs when sleeping?

It is generally safe to do so. Research suggests that using earplugs and eye masks while sleeping may lead to fewer sleep interruptions. There has been little research about the risks of wearing earplugs while sleeping, however.

Learn more about the safety of wearing earplugs when sleeping.

Can earplugs damage ears?

Currently, there is no evidence for this. However, wearing earplugs may lead to a buildup of earwax because they can block the wax’s exit through the ear canal. People may experience discomfort and pain if they have excess ear wax.

Learn more about earwax buildups.

How often should earplugs be replaced?

People should follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Some products are only suitable for one use, while others are reusable.

There are several factors to consider when purchasing earplugs, such as cost, ear size, comfort, and intended use. It is also worth keeping reviews and return policies in mind.