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Proper fit and noise reduction capabilities are crucial

The best earplugs are those that block the most sound, so finding the best earplug should be as easy as looking for the earplug with the highest noise reduction rating (NRR), a laboratory measurement of how many decibels (dB) of sound they block However, a high NRR means nothing if the earplug isn't in your ear. Comfort and ease of insertion are also important factors in determining the best earplug.

Hearos Ultimate Softness Series earplugs' (*Est. $7 for 20 pairs) ability to block out sound (NRR of 32 decibels) is surpassed only by their comfort. Reviewers say they are a particularly good choice for sleeping because of their softness -- they even allow you to sleep comfortably on your side. Beyond that, experts and consumers say they effectively reduce the noise from some of the loudest machines in our environment, including motorcycles, jackhammers and F-16 fighter jets. On the downside -- you may sleep through your alarm.

The bigger sibling of the Hearos line, Hearos Xtreme Protection Series earplugs (*Est. $5 for 14 pairs) have an NRR rating of 33 dB, the highest rating available for disposable earplugs, Several expert sources choose them as tops for sleeping, but they get their best reviews from those with larger ear canals, and they don't get as much praise for comfort as the Ultimate Softness Series.

Howard Leight Max earplugs (*Est. $7.50 for 20 pairs) also have a high 33 dB NRR rating, but they don't rate as well as the Hearos Ultimate Softness Series for comfort. They're also reported to be quite large, so they may not work well for people with smaller ear canals or be as comfortable for sleeping or other long term uses. However, for reducing loud noises, that long, narrow shape seems to be a factor in their excellent sound blocking effectiveness. They are particularly popular with motorcycle enthusiasts, but even the earplugs' fans say they can be difficult to insert and to get a proper fit.

Moldex Pura-Fit (*Est. $30 for 200 pairs) earplugs' NRR is also at33 dB, and they are slightly larger than usual, and, as a result, lose out on comfort. However, they're highly affordable, and users can go through a lot of earplugs without breaking the bank.

Any of these four earplugs are a great choice for noise reduction, but for best fit and comfort combined with multipurpose uses, the Hearos Ultimate Softness Series quietly takes a comfortable lead.

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Hearos Ultimate Softness Series Foam Earplugs, 20-Pair
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Howard Leight MAX-1 Foam Ear plugs Uncorded NRR33 (20 Pair)
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Moldex 6800 Pura-Fit Disposable Ear Plugs - Green (Box of 200)
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Hearos Ear Plugs - Xtreme Protection Series, 14 pr
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