Behind arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss is the third most commonly reported ailment in the world. It can happen immediately or occur over a much longer and less noticeable span of time. In fact, by the age of 65, one in three people will suffer from a significant level of hearing loss. But, here’s the kicker: it can be prevented.
The likelihood is that, while you cannot anticipate all the sounds that might cause you to suffer from hearing loss, there are ways your can prepare yourself to better combat it. The easiest way is to carry with you a pair of earplugs anytime you’re going somewhere with a significant enough risk – like a loud workplace, airports, sporting events, concerts, etc. And using earplugs can do more than just protect your hearing; it can be a means by which you can better concentrate, sleep, or just tune out for a while. With all of that in mind and more, we’ve put together the following guide of the best earplugs for every occasion.
Head Bangers & Hip Hoppers
Everybody loves to go see their favorite bands perform in the flesh. But – whether you listen to heavy metal, hip hop, electronica, or top-40 pop – that experience comes with a catch: live music is very damaging to your hearing. Even if you’re sitting in the nosebleeds of a massive arena, the sound can be plenty loud enough to damage your ears… permanently. This also goes for live sporting events, like Nascar or football, and things like airshows or fireworks displays. The following earplugs, however, are designed specifically to protect your eardrums without sacrificing the audio quality of whatever event it is that you are attending.
Dubs Acoustic Filters
In spite of their incredibly compact format, Dubs are actually built from 17 intricate pieces that range from stainless steel, to ABS plastic, to polymer foam, and silicone. Their complex design allows for midrange frequency control, allowing you to insulate your hearing without sacrificing the quality of the sound itself. And they also comes with a handy carry case for easy transportation.
dBud Volume Adjustable Earplugs
The dBud Volume Adjustable Earplugs offer a lot of the same sound quality saving dampening as Dubs, but with a little added bonus: you can actually choose between two different levels of decibel-insulation. Operating with a simple slider, you can choose between either 15 or 30 decibels of protection – and that can make all the difference. Even better, they’re completely reusable, come with multiple tips so you can choose your ideal fit, and they even have a handy cable to keep them comfortably around your neck when not in use.
Like the dBuds, Knops capitalizes on the same acoustically-sound noise insulation, but gives you optional volume control. Where these ones truly shine, however, is in their twist-operated design. Rather than giving you just two levels of decibel protection, these earplugs have four optional levels – setting 1 offers clear unimpeded sound, whereas 2, 3, and 4 offer protection of 10dB, 20dB and 30dB, respectively.
Mute The Machines
Live music and sporting events can be pretty damaging to your ears, but those kinds of events tend to be an occasional indulgence. If you work in a machine shop, in the construction industry, or in a factory, however, the daily exposure to high-decibel sounds can absolutely destroy your hearing permanently in a very short amount of time. Even a level that seems tolerable can cause you to suffer hearing loss over the course of weeks or years. If your job supplies some kind of hearing protection, you might want to double up or swap out for earplugs of your own – granted your employer is okay with that. Any of the following three options should do you right.
3M Corded Reusable Earplugs
3M is a massive company with one of the widest arrays of products in the world – around 55,000 different SKUs in total. And they include everything from duct tape, to bandages, to Post-It Notes. And, honestly, they do pretty much all of those things better than anyone else. That fact should make you confident in using their earplugs, as well. They’re simple, comfortable, and even come with an attached cord to keep them around your neck when they aren’t blocking out harmful noise.
Hearos Ultimate Softness Earplugs
If you’re not keen on the idea of a reusable earplug, you can always opt for disposables. If you’re going to do that, however, you should settle for nothing less than the best. And these ones from Hearos rank squarely at the top. They’re effective, comfortable, easy to use, and are even made here in the USA. Blocking out up to 32 decibels of harmful sound, this is your best one-use option.
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
One of the bigger issues people have with reusable earplugs is that they aren’t particularly comfortable over long stretches of time. These ones from Decibullz, however, are kind of like those mouth guards used by athletes – meaning you can custom mold them to fit your ears perfectly. That means they are both very effective at blocking out up to 31 decibels of harmful sound, but also extremely comfortable for all-day wear.
Tune Out The Turbines
Whether you’re a frequent traveler for business or you just like to getaway from it all every once in a while, you probably know that jet-setting comes with a lot of unexpected noise. Whether it’s crying babies, barking dogs, chatty seat mates, or even just the persistent hum of airplane turbines, the sounds can keep you tense, stop you from relaxing, and even damage your auditory sensors. Rather than suffer in relative silence, create your own actual silence with these earplugs.
While these earplugs are excellent at blocking out harmful and annoying levels of sound during travel, they also alleviate another common ailment when flying: air pressure. Rapid changes in elevation can cause some people to feel moderate to severe discomfort, as the change in pressure can feel a little bit like your head is going to explode. Pop in a pair of EarPlanes, however, and that pressure can be naturally alleviated.
Etymotic High Fidelity Earplugs
Think of these plugs like a more high-quality reusable version of the EarPlanes above. They’re comfortable, dampen sound, and can help to alleviate air pressure buildup in your cranium. The difference? These ones were designed to preserve the quality of sound while quieting it – meaning you’ll be able to listen for the flight attendant when she comes by with the bar cart and you won’t have to pull them out to order your in-flight cocktail of choice.
Get Some Zs
Perhaps you work at night and need to sleep during the day when everyone else is up and about. Maybe you live in a city that never seems to shut down – even in the wee small hours of the morning. Or let’s say your significant other is a big-time snorer. Whatever the case, keeping the noise down can mean the difference between a restful night’s sleep and being tired and grumpy all the time. Do yourself a favor if you can’t get a night’s rest and try out one of these pairs of sleep-friendly earplugs.
Honeywell Foam Earplugs
Sometimes, you want to just completely drown out the world and get some shut-eye. Well, for those times, you can’t do much better than these disposable earplugs from Honeywell. They’re renowned for their softness, comfort, and the ability to just shut off the noise of the world around you. Just be sure you’re using them when you don’t have anywhere to be the following morning, as you’re definitely not going to be able to hear your alarm.
Certainly the most technologically advanced earplugs on our list, the Bose Sleepbuds are a lot like headphones. Except that they weren’t designed to play music, but rather pipe in sound-masking relaxing noises to help you sleep soundly regardless of the noise around you. What’s even cooler is they can be set up to wake you gently with an alarm of your choice, meaning anyone you are sharing a bed with wont be disturbed when you have to get up.
Swim & Surf
Be Wary of Water
The one instance that is less about sound and more about the physical disturbance of your ear canals, surfing can cause unexpected damage to your ears if you don’t keep them protected. Known colloquially as swimmer’s ear, otitis externa is a condition in which water remains in your ear canal for a long period of time – creating a moist environment in which bacteria and fungi can grow. Another similarly named condition – surfer’s ear (AKA exostosis) – is caused by prolonged ear canal exposure to cold salt water and can result in abnormal bone growth. Also, it can (in extreme cases) cause prolonged pain, tinnitus-like symptoms, and increases the chance of infection and possibly lead to deafness. Don’t risk it. Next time you paddle out, wear a pair of one of the following earplugs.
Speedo Ergo Earplugs
Probably the closest to the literal definition of ‘plug’ as any of the offerings on our list get, these ear-savers from Speedo are designed for one simple function: keep everything out. That means they create a seal within your ear canal so almost nothing can get in – helping to prevent everything from the mild discomfort of having water in your ears to the longterm damage caused by swimmer’s ear and more. That also means they don’t let in any sound at all, so if you want to completely tune out while you swim, this is your best bet.
SurfEars 2.0 Earplugs
If you frequently paddle out, you should do yourself a favor and get a pair of SurfEars. Designed specifically for surfing, these innovative earplugs are comfortable, secure, and keep water out while letting surrounding sounds in – all ideal qualities in waterborne ear protectors. If the tech itself isn’t enough to convince you, the fact that these are used by a number of professional-level surfers should serve to illustrate exactly how good they are.
10 Best Headphones For Every Occasion
Sometimes you need to protect your ears from loud sounds. Other times? A good pair of headphones are essential for focusing at work or just making the trip go a bit faster. Find out which is the best fit for you in our rundown of the best headphones for every occasion.