What the best earplugs are

  • Easy to insert. They should be simple to insert and remove.
  • Comfortable. If your earplugs are uncomfortable, you may not wear them consistently. Discomfort can also be a sign that the earplug is too large for your ear canal.
  • Well-rated for noise reduction. Earplugs' noise reduction rating shows how many decibels they decreased sound in a laboratory setting. Higher ratings are generally better, but real-world performance can vary in lab tests.
  • Made to fit the activity. Foam earplugs are primarily for noise reduction, but other earplugs are made for special situations such as swimming, diving, air travel and playing music.
  • Secure. Earplugs won't do you any good if they fall out of your ears. Before buying a large quantity, test the earplugs in the environment and the way you plan to use them. Many manufacturers offer variety packs, so you can try different sizes and configurations before committing to one.

Know before you go

How big are your ears? There is no standard sizing for earplugs and most are one size fits all, although some manufacturers sell them in small, medium and large. Try a variety of earplugs until you begin to get a general idea of your ear and ear canal size. As a heads-up for women, most earplugs are sized for men.

What is your intended use? Do you need to block noise for eight hours while you sleep? If so, comfort should be your top priority. Otherwise, look for earplugs that are specifically designed for the activity you are going to be pursuing.

Do you know how to properly insert foam earplugs? Most manufacturers have either written instructions or a video tutorial on their website. Taking the time to practice the recommended insertion method can make a world of difference in how well your earplugs work.

Buying tactics and strategies

Take them for a thorough test drive before buying in bulk. The best way to decide if earplugs work for you is to fully try them out and not just put them in your ear and declare them comfortable. Try to mimic the activity you'll be using them for, wear them for extended periods of time, and most importantly move your jaw around by chewing, yawning and talking. As you move your jaw, it can change the shape and size of your ear canal, potentially turning comfortable earplugs into painful ones.

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