One of the easiest steps you can take to protect your ability to hear is to wear ear plugs. These small devices are inserted into the ear to block out disruptive or damaging sounds. Although they seem like a simple product, there are actually many different types of ear plugs on the market. Knowing the essential differences will allow you to pick the best ones.
The first thing to think about when shopping for ear plugs is the amount of noise reduction you need. Every plug has a noise reduction rating (NRR) that signifies the amount of noise it cancels out, with the best quality ear plugs ranging from 21 to 33 decibels. Figure out where and when you will use your ear plugs. For example, you will find that plugs with a lower NRR will be sufficient if you plan to use them to block out traffic noise while working or studying. However if you spend a lot of time around fairly loud noises you’ll need a higher NRR as would be the case for heavy equipment operators or musicians.
Next, take some time to consider the composition of the plugs you are considering. Foam ear plugs are made from a type of memory foam that is inserted into the ear canal. The foam is compressed during insertion then expands to plug the canal. Silicone ear plugs differ from foam in that they are molded over the outside of the ear canal. Both types of plugs are disposable.
Your final step is to consider why you are shopping for plugs in the first place. You can get away with using a simple silicone or foam plug in many situations, but there are specific plugs made for certain environments. Musicians often wear custom-made, non-disposable earplugs to help protect their hearing while they are performing. These plugs are carefully crafted to fit your ear, allowing you to hear what you are playing while blocking out harmful sounds.
A totally different use of ear plugs is to block out a partner’s snoring while sleeping. Ear plugs for sleeping are fairly advanced. They are able to block out the sounds of snoring while permitting you to hear your alarm clock or fire alarm. Try out these plugs with your head tilted to the side. You’ll want to choose a pair that fits well while lying down.
If you take the time to really think about what you need your earplugs for, you should not have any problems finding a pair that suits you.