Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs sit over your ear canal, making them a good choice for anyone who can't use earplugs that insert into the ear canal. Two clinical studies find these earplugs to be the best at keeping water out, but some reviewers also use them while sleeping or traveling. Their noise reduction rating of 22 decibels is enough to dull everyday noises, but not to block the loudest sounds.
Seals out water. Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs are made of moldable silicone that forms a seal over the outer ear opening. Though no earplugs can keep ears completely dry, recent medical studies in the journals Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery and the American Journal of Otolaryngology found Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs to be the most effective at keeping water out of the ear canal.
Some owners use Pillow Soft earplugs out of the water, too. Their noise reduction rating of 22 decibels is just enough to take the edge off household noises -- "Better than marriage counseling!" proclaims one relieved Amazon.com user -- but not really enough for ear protection in noisier situations.
Molds to your ear. Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs start out somewhat hard, but as they warm you can mold them to fit over your ear. Since no part of the earplug rests inside the ear canal, these may be ideal for children, those with ear tubes, or anyone else who can't insert earplugs into their ears. A few complain that these earplugs create a vacuum seal when used on dry land, though; others say the stickiness that helps the earplugs stay put also snares hair and dirt. Several people say their solution is tearing each "pillow" in half to create two smaller earplugs. A smaller, children's version is also available.
Semi-reusable. Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs cost about $3.50 for two pairs, but they can be reused -- to a point. Most reviewers say they can get the recommended five or six uses out of these before their stickiness wears off to the point they won't stay put, although a few complain that they wear out faster. Others say they get markedly longer use from these earplugs: "I find a single pair works well for 20 days with no change in how they fit," writes one swimmer at SwimOutlet.com. Keeping the Pillow Soft earplugs in the case they come with is one of the best ways to keep them clean, which in turn helps them last longer.
1. Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery
In this study nine different earplugs were tested with 10 testers under three different swimming scenarios (splashing, submersion and surface swimming). All earplugs allowed some amount of water to enter the ear canal, more so when the head was completely submerged; but Mack's Pillow Soft was the most effective in keeping ears dry.
Review: Efficacy of Commercial Earplugs in Preventing Water Intrusion During Swimming, H. Mahboubi et al., March 2013
2. American Journal of Otolaryngology
In this study the researchers tested the efficacy of four different earplugs at preventing water from entering the ear canal. They placed the earplugs in an anatomically correct model of the ear, and then exposed it to water. Mack's Pillow Soft was the most effective at preventing water intrusion. The least effective was a custom-molded earplug.
Review: An Objective Comparison of Leakage Between Commonly Used Earplugs, J.A. Alt and W.O. Collins, July 2012
Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs earn an overall rating of 4.3 stars after more than 190 user reviews in this Amazon.com listing. Many of the reviewers are using them to deal with snoring partners. One says a piece broke off inside her ear canal, although these earplugs are only meant to be used on the outside of your ear canal.
Review: Macks Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs Value Pack, 6 Count, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of April 2014
Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs get a score of better than 4.5 stars from about two dozen reviews on EarPlugStore.com. One of the reviewers, a daily distance swimmer, calls these the "best plugs in the world," and the rest of the reviewers agree, noting how well these earplugs work and how comfortable they are. One user wishes the earplugs lasted longer than six days.
Review: Macks Pillow Soft, Contributors to EarPlugStore.com, As of April 2014
In this thorough roundup, Ulrich Boser rates eight different earplugs for effectiveness, comfort, durability and value. He gives Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs above average scores for their effectiveness and comfort, but he knocks them for poor durability as they fell out during his "run-up-the-stairs test."
Review: The Sound of Silence, Ulrich Boser, May 17, 2005
More than 40 reviewers weigh in with their opinions about Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs at this online swimming retailer. They give the earplugs a 4.5-star score overall; the general consensus is that these earplugs are comfortable, stay put and work well to keep water out.
Review: Mack's Pillow Soft Earplugs 6 Pair, Contributors to SwimOutlet.com, As of April 2014
More than 60 shoppers at Drugstore.com give Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs an average score of 4.5 stars. The few swimmers who comment say they work well to keep water out; others use them for noise reduction, with varying results.
Review: Mack's Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs, Clear, Value Pack, Contributors to Drugstore.com, As of April 2014
About a dozen Walmart.com reviewers comments on Mack's Pillow Soft earplugs, but the 4.6-star average score makes them one of the most popular models sold here. One or two of the reviewers use these for swimming, but others say they purchased them for noise reduction and actually like the silicone earplugs better than foam.
Review: Mack's: Pillow Soft Earplugs, 6 Pr, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of April 2014