Best Earplugs for Sleeping

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

43 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
367 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best earplugs for sleeping

Last Updated August 2019

More than a third of the population sleeps less than the recommended seven hours per night, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Sleep disorders are so common, in fact, that the CDC recently declared them a public health epidemic. And it’s no wonder: sleep loss is known to contribute to obesity, impaired immune system function, poor heart health, depression, and serious car accidents, among other problems.

Maybe you’re among the millions of people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You might be among the 20% of the population with a sleep disorder. Or you might just have something like noise keeping you awake at night. Noise can negatively affect your sleep quality throughout the night, even if you don’t fully wake up.

It’s hard to put a price on quality sleep. If you’re having trouble, you might want to give earplugs a try. We can help you find the best set to fit your ears, your sensitivities, and your family’s needs. Keep reading to learn more.

Adults ages 45 to 54 get the least sleep of any age group, according to the CDC. For some sufferers, earplugs are the answer.

Considerations

Decibel blocking

When shopping for earplugs for sleeping, the most important consideration is how many decibels of sound you need to block. After all, you don’t want to block all sound. Hearing your alarm clock is a necessary evil. You do want a smoke alarm and a fire siren to wake you up. Parents need to be able to hear their baby monitor or a child calling for help, too. So the question is, what level of sound blocking will safely get you a good night’s sleep?

You can tell how much noise a pair of earplugs will block based on its Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR. Most disposable earplugs have an NRR in the low to mid-20s — considerably less than the highest possible rating of 33 NRR.

A simple math calculation will help you figure out how many decibels your earplugs can block. To calculate this number, subtract the number seven from the product’s NRR. Divide that number by two. Finally, subtract that number from the decibel level of the sound you want to reduce. So, for example, a pair of earplugs with an NRR of 25 would block roughly nine decibels of sound. These earplugs would bring a 70-decibel noise made by a vacuum cleaner down to about 61 decibels.

When choosing the NRR rating that’s appropriate for you, consider the sounds that keep you awake. Do you live near an airport? Landing airplanes typically produce sounds of 90 to 100 decibels. Does someone in your home snore? Snoring falls somewhere between 60 and 90 decibels. Here are a few more examples.

  • Do nearby trains keep you awake? Trains emit a sound of about 80 decibels from 50 to 100 feet away.

  • Do you live near a busy road? Most road noise registers around 70 decibels.

  • Do other members of your household stay up late talking? Conversational speech registers between 50 and 60 decibels.
     

You’re probably never going to block out the 120-decibel boom of a thunderclap or the wail of a police siren. And you wouldn’t want to: our bodies’ startle reflexes and fight-or-flight mechanisms are there for our own good. But if you can reduce the sound level below 40 decibels — the threshold which many report will awaken them at night — your chances of getting a good night’s sleep rise dramatically.

Earplug materials

Earplugs are most commonly made of foam. Whether conical or bell-shaped, most have a tapered design that allows them to easily fit in the ear canal. They don’t take much effort to compress, and they re-expand to seal the ear canal gently. Foam earplugs are smooth, lightweight, and comfortable. However, they tend to lose shape more quickly than other types. Most are intended to be used once or twice and come in large-quantity boxes. They collect bacteria relatively easily and are considered disposable.

Some earplugs are made of silicone. Unlike foam earplugs, many silicone earplugs are reusable. Some are bullet-shaped with a rigid feel that makes them easy to clean but uncomfortable for side sleepers. Others are bullet-shaped but, because they are made from a softer silicone, makers claim them to be comfortable in any sleep position. A few disc-shaped earplugs are made from silicone putty; these earplugs may be more comfortable than other silicone designs. They’re still considered disposable, but you can use earplugs made from silicone putty for about a week before throwing them away.

Some earplugs are made of wax, but these are primarily made for swimmers. Wax earplugs are extremely moldable, so if you have trouble fitting other types of earplugs in your ear, you may want to consider a pair of wax earplugs.

Noise cancellation and filtering

Some high-end earplugs have noise-cancelling or noise-filtering technology that combats specific types of sounds. The most common effect is what’s known as passive noise cancellation, in which a specialized design or material blocks sounds that are irregular or high-pitched. A few pricier options have active noise cancellation, in which a signal is generated to counter incoming continuous low-pitched sounds. Because it involves signal generation, earplugs that use active noise cancellation require a power source, adding to the price tag.

Noise-filtering earplugs, on the other hand, filter out disruptive sounds while letting the sounds you need to hear pass through. Earplugs that filter noise allow you to hear mid-range sounds like alarm clocks and voices, but they block sharp, startling noises and low, droning noises.

DID YOU KNOW?

More than 10% of adults report that sleep deprivation affects their driving, and more than 8% state that getting too little sleep affects their job performance.

DID YOU KNOW?

Nighttime noises aren’t the only sounds that can disrupt your sleep. Early morning interruptions, such as barking dogs and rumbling garbage trucks, can cut your sleep time short, too.

Other features

In addition to your choice of earplug materials and sound-cancelling or filtering abilities, there are a few other optional features you may wish to look for in a pair of earplugs for sleeping.

  • Some earplugs come with cords you can attach to avoid losing them in the middle of the night.

  • Some earplugs come with interchangeable shells so you can find the perfect fit. After all, not all ear canals are the same size. Foam plugs compress and expand to fit most ears, but some silicone earplugs might not fit petite ears well. If you’re concerned about fit, look for a product that comes with interchangeable shells.

  • Some earplugs come in sets with multiple noise-reduction options. If you’re not sure how much noise reduction you need, look for a set like this so you can experiment with different types.

  • Some earplugs come with a carrying case. With a designated clean place to put your earplugs, it’s easier to keep them sanitary — and easier to find them when you need them.

Earplugs for sleeping: prices

Earplugs differ in price based on materials and design. You can find earplugs with low and high reduction ratings across the price spectrum; materials and features account for the difference in price. Since many earplugs come in multipacks, we’ll calculate a cost per pair.

The least-expensive earplugs usually cost under less than $1 per pair — $.25 to $.50 is a common range. In this price range, earplugs usually come in multipacks. They are usually disposable and made of foam.

Mid-range earplugs generally cost between $1 and $2 per pair. These earplugs may be made of foam or moldable silicone. They’re more substantial than lower-priced earplugs, but they still belong in the disposable category.

High-end earplugs can cost anywhere from $10 to $20 per pair. Earplugs costing this much will be reusable and made of silicone. They will likely have specialized design features for noise cancellation or filtering.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

If you have a latex allergy, check the label of any earplugs you’re considering to make sure latex isn’t included in the product.

Tips

  • Don’t wear earplugs every night; the wax in your ears needs a chance to drain properly. (Impacted earwax puts you at risk for ear infections.) Instead, trying wearing them intermittently.

  • Make sure you regularly clean your earplugs to avoid contamination. Earplugs made of foam are especially vulnerable to bacterial growth.

  • Never insert an earplug so far in that you can’t reach it with your fingers.

  • If you have a latex allergy, read the label on your earplugs carefully to make sure no latex is included in the product.

Other products we considered

Fans of wax earplugs should check out the moldable wax earplugs from Peace and Quiet.  These small wax pillows are perfect for side sleepers because nothing sticks out of the ear. They are easily shaped to fit most ears and are rated at 32 NRR.

The High Fidelity Earplugs from Eargasm are pricey, but they get rave reviews from users ranging from motorcycle riders to sleep-deprived apartment dwellers. Made of soft silicone, they’re prized for comfort and their ability to filter noise without diminishing sound quality.

Earplugs aren’t just for coping with a snoring partner. Make sure you pack them for red-eye flights and camping trips, too.

FAQ

Q. How can noise negatively impact my sleep quality if it doesn’t wake me up?

A. Noise can cause restlessness even if it doesn’t wake you. Your brain continues to receive and process noise when you’re asleep, and too much noise can diminish your sleep quality. It can also prevent you from transitioning from lighter sleep to REM and deep sleep. REM sleep starts about an hour and a half after you fall asleep, and it plays an important role in memory consolidation. Progressing to deep sleep, which happens for longer periods earlier in the night, is the relaxing rest that allows you to feel refreshed in the morning. If either of these sleep stages suffer, your memory and wakefulness may suffer, too.

Q. What is the safest way to put earplugs in my ears?

A. Silicone ear plugs have a relatively fixed shape, but with foam ear plugs, there’s a specific method of insertion that will maximize both noise reduction and safety. First, wash your hands. Next, roll the earplug until it’s slender enough to fit in your ear. Tug your earlobe away from your head to make your ear canal more accessible. Then, insert the earplug. Push it in just far enough to block sound; you don’t want to irritate your eardrum lining or have trouble removing it with your fingers. The foam will slowly expand to meet the space of your ear canal. Keep your hand in place over your ear until the earplug is fully in place. This prevents the plug from accidentally popping out and becoming contaminated.

Q. What’s the best way to clean reusable ear plugs?

A. Dip the earplugs in a bowl of warm, soapy water. Using a toothbrush or another small brush, clean the dirt out of areas that are hard to rub by hand. Finally, rinse the earplugs with water and allow them to air dry. For extra disinfection, spray the earplugs with alcohol and allow them to dry completely.

The team that worked on this review
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Kristin
    Kristin
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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