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Outside noise can be a major sleep disruption, and many people rely on earplugs to get a good night’s rest. Situations where earplugs may come in handy include the following:
Earplugs for sleeping are relatively inexpensive compared to other noise-blocking products (such as white noise machines or headphones), and are widely available through online and brick-and-mortar retailers. Users can also choose from a wide range of shapes and styles. However, it’s important to note that long-term earplug use can lead to medical conditions like tinnitus, hearing loss, and ear infections.
This guide will look at the most popular designs for earplugs, information about health risks, and our picks for the top-rated earplugs sold today.
The majority of earplugs sold today are made from one of three materials:
A wide range of earplug shapes are available. These include cylindrical (tapered and non-tapered), circular, bell-shaped, and T-shaped designs, as well as moldable models that match the specific dimensions of the user’s ear canal. Regardless of shape, most earplugs sold today share the following characteristics.
Nightly earplug use is associated with three general health and safety risks:
Earwax Impaction: Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a substance secreted (or drained) in the ear canal on a daily basis. It protects the skin and tissue of the inner ear against contaminants like bacteria and fungi, as well as water, and provides much-needed lubrication. Wearing earplugs can affect how much earwax is drained, and this can lead to earwax impaction, or buildup. One common side effect of earwax impaction is tinnitus, a condition characterized by a constant ringing in the ears. Other outcomes may include hearing loss, leaky discharge, or ear infections.
The best way for earplug users to prevent earwax impaction is to thoroughly clean the ear canal on a regular basis — if not every day, then multiple times per week. Cleaning and replacing earplugs can also help reduce the risk of impaction.
Ear Infections: In addition to infections caused by earwax impaction, people who use earplugs may become infected if they do not regularly and properly clean their plugs. Failure to do so allows bacteria to accumulate, and placing bacteria-infested plugs in one’s ear canal can easily lead to an infection. Foam is particularly conducive to bacteria buildup. For this reason, many earplugs are designed for one-time use.
To clean reusable earplugs, simply submerge them in warm water and rub away dirt and waxy buildup. Once they are clean, place the earplugs under running cold water to rinse away any traces of soap, which can affect the structural integrity of the earplugs. Lastly, place them on a clean towel to dry.
Minimized Hearing: Because they effectively block outside noise, earplugs can pose a risk to sleepers by preventing them from hearing certain activities in their home. These include emergency situations, such as a fire or home intruder, as well as medical issues involving family members or roommates. People with young children may want to refrain from using earplugs for this reason.
When shopping for earplugs for sleeping and comparing different brands and models, here are a few factors to keep in mind:
Now, let’s look at the sleeping earplugs that have earned the highest ratings from owners. The two tables below feature our 10 top-rated picks. All satisfaction ratings have been generated from authentic customer experiences.
|Brand/Model||3M E-A-RSoft||Flents Super Sleep Comfort||Hearos Ultimate Softness||Howard Leight Laser Lite||Howard Leight Max 1|
|Price (est.)||$21.50 |
|Size(s)||One size fits all||One size fits all||One size fits all||One size fits all||Average|
|Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)||33||29||32||32||33|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||95% (82 customer reviews)||89% (591 customer reviews)||86% (38 customer reviews)||91% (1,409 customer reviews)||93% (1,311 customer reviews)|
|Brand/Model||Liberty Duraplug||Mack’s Pillow Soft||Moldex 6800 Pura Fit||Ohropax Wax||Super Sleep Comfort|
|Size(s)||One size fits all||One size fits all||One size fits all||One size fits all||One size fits all|
|Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)||32||22||33||23||29|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||89% (255 customer reviews)||87% (1,229 customer reviews)||90% (503 customer reviews)||89% (123 customer reviews)||85% (622 customer reviews)|
If you’re unable to sleep despite using earplugs, then you may be more satisfied with one of these noise-blocking alternatives.
Headphones: Listening to music while you sleep can be an effective method of blocking outside noise, and some studies suggest this may also lower your heart rate. Headphones come in in-ear, on-ear, and over-ear designs, and some newer models are built into headbands or sleep masks. Cheaper headphones are available for less than $30, while higher-end models may cost $200 or more. To learn more, please visit our Best Headphones for Sleeping guide.
White noise machines: White noise machines produce random sound signals that can mask outside noise to a significant extent. Many sleepers utilize these machines when they go to bed. In addition to white noise, the machines may produce other ‘colors’ of noise, such as pink, blue, red, and brown noise — all of which increase or decrease volume per tempo for different listening experiences and sound-masking capabilities.
Most white noise machine models come with speakers and headphone jacks to accommodate different listening preferences. These machines rarely cost more than $100, and are widely available through brick-and-mortar and online retailers. For more information, check out our White Noise Machine Reviews guide.
Apps: Today’s smartphone or tablet user can choose from a wide selection of soothing, noise-blocking apps. Most are free, and come with multiple white noise and ambient options. The most popular white noise apps priced at $2 or less include the following:
For more information on strategies and products that can help you block outside noise and get a good night’s sleep, please visit the following Tuck pages: