Earplugs: Ratings of Sources
In this study, nine different earplugs were tested in 10 different individuals to determine which ones were best at keeping water out of the ear canal during swimming, both on the surface and under water. All earplugs let in some water, especially when the head was completely submerged, but Mack's Pillow Soft blocked water the best for surface swimming. However, this abstract does not name the earplugs that Mack's outperformed.
SleepLikeTheDead.com is a website dedicated to reviewing sleep products. In this earplugs review, they compile information from thousands of user-written reviews to create a list of the top four earplugs, with owner satisfaction ratings of 90 percent or better from at least 280 reviewers. A concise table compares the top models' appearance, price, reusability, and the main complaints cited in user reviews.
Researchers tested the water-blocking abilities of four different earplugs by placing them in an anatomically correct model of the ear and then exposing it to water. Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs were the most effective at preventing water intrusion, while custom molded earplugs were least effective.
Reporter Troy Farah, a dedicated concertgoer concerned about developing tinnitus, tests six earplugs for music listening, both at concerts and at home. Models range from cheap, disposable foam earplugs to an elaborate electronic pair that costs $300. Farah gives each model a grade from A to F based on its comfort, ease of use, and how well it mutes sound without compromising audio quality.
Motorcycle enthusiast Ian Johnston tries on 13 brands of earplugs and rates them on four criteria: packaging, expansion speed, pressure and comfort. All the models he tests have a noise reduction rating between 29 and 33, so he doesn't bother to compare them on this point. Johnston gives each model a score from 1 to 10 on each factor, then adds them up to provide an overall rating.
Pretty much any brand of earplug on the market is available through Amazon.com, and the most popular products receive hundreds or even thousands of individual reviews. The large volume of feedback makes it easier to find the best earplugs for particular ear types and particular uses, such as concerts or swimming. We found seven models with average scores of at least 4.5 stars from 500 or more users.
The earplugs sold at SwimOutlet.com are designed specifically for use while swimming, and they collect a wide range of user reviews. Although several brands are sold here, Mack's stand out as a clear favorite, with three different models earning 4.5-star ratings from 60 users or more.
Walmart offers about 30 varieties of earplugs, but most of them have only a handful of reviews. However, one brand, Etymotic ETY Plugs, attracts far more feedback, earning a 4.8-star overall rating from more than 130 owners. Mack's Pillow Soft silicone earplugs also receive 4.8 stars overall, but from only 30 users.
Drugstore.com offers a limited assortment of earplugs, and only a handful of those receive more than 20 reviews. We found only four models with ratings of 4.5 stars or better after at least 20 user reviews. On the plus side, the website provides a helpful summary of the most commonly cited pros and cons for each brand, as well as the percentage of users who would recommend it.
Motorcycle enthusiast "Rick K." tries out seven different types earplugs and reports his impressions. Tested brands include Moldex, Howard Leight, and 3M. Each model gets a brief write-up focusing on size, comfort, and ease of use; only some of the comments cover noise reduction.
This retail website caters to musicians' needs, so its selection of earplugs focuses on types designed specifically for concert use. Most only get a handful of reviews, but a few draw good scores and enough feedback so that those scores are meaningful.
In this write-up, "Rick K." tests 20 different earplugs and evaluates their effectiveness, size, comfort, and ease of insertion. However, he doesn't offer any actual recommendations, noting that fit is the most important factor and what works for one set of ears may not work for another.
EarPlugStore.com is an online retailer dedicated solely to earplugs and hearing protection. Unfortunately, the site provides no way to search its products to find which ones have the most user reviews or the highest ratings. Thus, we have relied on it solely for finding additional reviews of products that receive high ratings elsewhere.