With all the activity happening around us and the increasingly loud situations we find ourselves exposed to, protecting our ears is of utmost importance. Earplugs are commonly used products for a great number of situations but particularly for sleeping and use by musicians. Although relatively simple in their design, proper use of the right kind of earplugs is key.
Noise Reduction Rating
Earplugs’ noise reduction rating (NRR) is perhaps the most important feature for you to consider. Measured in decibels (db), the best earplugs have NRR’s ranging from 21 db to 33 db. This means that you would be able to hear the loudness of a normal conversation (60-70 db) as only a whisper (30 db).
Choosing a NRR rating entirely depends on your use. If you want as much silence as possible, then the highest rating of 33 db is suitable, but if you want to, at least faintly, hear your alarm clock and other important sounds, a lower rating will suffice.
Shape of Earplugs
The tympanic bones of your ears are the tiniest bones of your body and they are extremely fragile. The shape of your earplugs is very important, especially if you use them more than occasionally. Improper insertion can cause infection and severe pain due to irritation of your temporomandibular joint. Custom fitted or molded earplugs are the best choice to avoid this, but you will find that they are quite expensive.
Composition of Earplugs
Earplugs are most commonly made of foam; some feature memory foam. For the health of your ears, you must regularly wash and dry your earplugs, however, foam naturally expands and changes shape when exposed to water, so you will have to dispose of them after only a few uses. They also contain phthalate, an unofficial carcinogen. Though phthalate-containing earplugs have not been proven dangerous, silicone earplugs have become increasingly popular due to their lack thereof. Silicone is also a superior material because, unlike foam, it does not promote bacterial and other microbial growth that can lead to infection.
Risks of Using Earplugs
Frequent, long-term use of earplugs presents the most risk. They block the natural flow of earwax, causing buildup that leads to infection, most commonly tinnitus. You would be prone to severe pain, discharge and even hearing loss. Prolonged contact with your skin increases these risks as does improper insertion and care.
In all, earplugs solve one of the world’s most common issues of insufficient sleep and help professionals like musicians work while limiting their decibel exposure. When used properly, earplugs are highly recommended to help protect long-term hearing and prevent damage to your ears. To benefit fully from their use, you must make careful choices and diligently follow their care instructions.
Best For SleepingNRR 22, Safe, comfortable and reusable
Best Foam EarplugsNRR 33, Highest protection available
Best for MusiciansNRR 20, Two levels of protection