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NPSF™ -- Are you trying to sleep in a noisy place or with a loud snoring partner?

What to Try... ...And Why:
Disposable Foam Ear Plugs

Disposable foam ear plugs are the most commonly used ear plugs for sleeping. Disposable foam ear plugs offer the highest level or protection you can get in a single hearing protective device, but you must get them properly inserted, and you must select the right plug to fit your ears. Here is a short video tutorial on how to properly fit disposable foam ear plugs. To find the perfect ear plug for your ears, we offer several ear plug trial packs that let you try out a bunch to find your favorites.

Common complaints we hear are that the plugs do not stay in the ear, or they hurt after wearing for a long time. Most of the time, the plugs can be made to stay put by using proper insertion techniques as in the video referenced above, and the pain often is the result of choosing the wrong ear plug, but both of these issues can also be addressed by choosing a different kind of ear plug. Remember, though, no other kind of ear plug will give you as high noise protection as do foam ear plugs when used properly.

Reusable Ear Plugs for Sleep and Snoring

Most reusable pre-molded ear plugs have lower NRR ratings than do disposable foam ear plugs, but they may be adequate unless your situation is very loud and/or you are especially sensitive to the noises that are keeping you awake. Reusable ear plugs are less expensive than foam plugs in the long run, because they can be washed and reused many times where disposable foam needs to be tossed after just one or two uses. We provide a curated collection of both industrial and consumer packaged reusable ear plugs that can be used for sleeping in noisy places. Our criteria are that the ear plug have no stem that protrudes out of the ear, and that they are low profile so most people can lie on them without discomfort. Because everyone is different, though, you might have to try several different kinds before you find an ear plug that you find comfortable enough to wear all night.

Moldable Silicone or Wax Ear Plugs

Moldable ear plugs are simple blobs of silicone putty or wax, which is usually mixed with cotton fibers to help keep the wax together when it gets below about 85 degrees or so at which point the wax gets brittle. Moldable ear plugs have the advantage of protecting hearing without the need to insert anything into the ear canal. Moldable ear plugs fill the outer ear, covering the opening to the canal, so they are very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Moldable ear plugs have an NRR of about 22-25 dB which is okay for most sleeping situations, though it could be inadequate for really loud snoring or other noises.

The primary benefit of moldable ear plugs is that you always get a perfect fit, because you mold them to your ears each time you use them. They also let you lie comfortably on your side.

Kneading is required to warm and soften wax plugs each time you use them, but this just takes a few seconds, and can be worth the trouble because once in place, your body heat keeps them warm and soft so they are the most comfy ear plugs you can get for sleeping. Silicone putty is more stable, and requires no preparatory kneading to soften them, but still must be kneaded a little to renew the tackiness that holds them in the ear.

We like Quies Boules from France and Ohropax from Germany. Both are top quality wax ear plugs. For moldable silicone, Mack's are the gold standard, having made them for well over 50 years.

Custom Ear Plugs

Lab-made custom ear plugs are the most expensive of all the options, and they do not provide quite as much noise protection as do foam ear plugs. So why get lab-made custom ear plugs? In short, the answer is that custom ear plugs fit you perfectly every time, they are simpler and easier to use, and over time they will even save you money as compared to disposable or reusable ear plugs because they last for years. We suggest Westone Style 40 Noise Plugs made with ultra soft W1 silicone and in a canal only form factor for the very best custom sleep ear plugs you can get at any price.

Do-It-Yourself Custom Ear Plugs

If you find most universal fit ear plugs just do not work for you, but you are not ready to pop for the big bucks and want to avoid the hassle of making ear impressions which are required for lab made custom ear plugs, we suggest you consider making your own custom molded ear plugs using one of the diy kits we sell. All of the diy custom kits we sell are fine products, and they do not cost much. If you want to try custom ear plugs while avoiding the over $100 price tag, diy custom ear plugs are a wonderful place to start...and maybe end. These ear plugs will last you for quite a long time with proper care. Even if it takes you a couple of tries to get your ear plugs just the way you want them, you will still save a ton by doing it yourself.

White Noise Machines

White noise machines are simple devices that produce a single sound or a range of soothing sounds to help you sleep. By choosing a sound profile you like, and adjusting the volume (and sometimes the tone,) you can often mask the sound that is annoying you and disrupting your sleep. Masking sounds should carry little or no information, they should be soothing and random so that you do not begin to hear the starting point of any sound loops that your device is playing. Such repetitive artifacts can become a brand new distraction--not good. One reason some white noise machines are more expensive is that they have more memory, allowing the machine to play longer loops thereby reducing the frequency of any artifacts that may repeat, which reduces the likelihood you will notice them. The other reason is that carefully engineered sound loops are simply more expensive to produce. Note: all electronic white noise machines use recorded loops of sound, other than white noise sounds such as fan, waterfall, and wind. Train sounds, wave sounds, and forest sounds, all of necessity are generated by playing recorded loops of sound. Other electro-mechanical white noise machines like the Marpac Dohm machines are simply small fans with steep blade angles that do not move much air. By simply spinning the rotor, these devices make a wonderful sound that millions sleep to each night (and that includes us. We use a Dohm.)

You can also mask noise by using what you have on hand. Devices such as a box fan, or an AM radio, tuned off station, can be used to produce a masking sound that will help you sleep better in a noisy room. You can also find smart phone apps that will let you play masking sounds through the phone speaker, or better, through your earphones. We like SleepPhones for sleeping with minor noises. For really loud snoring, a combination of an ear plug plus an earphone will let you block much of the sound with the earpieces, and then mask the remainder of the sound by playing a masking sound into your ears. Good choices include MicroBuds and PlugFones, with foam tips, but these can be hard to lie on if you are a side sleeper. If the wires on the earphones are a bother, you might consider an in-ear white noise machine. These are hearing aid sized devices that have a foam tip that acts as an ear plug to block noise, and they produce a soothing version of white noise you can inject into your ears to mask the snoring or other noises that would otherwise interfere with your sleep.

We simplify the process of creating the combination of a masking sound source and isolation earphones, in our Got Ears? Personal Isolation System.

CAUTION: Any time you use a masking sound to help you sleep, do keep in mind that you can cause hearing damage if the masking sound is turned up too high. Hearing damage comes from the total noise dose you accumulate over time, so use the minimum amount of masking sound you need to block the noise that is bothering you, and pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If it seems to loud to you, turn it down. If your ears ring when you turn it off, it was playing too loudly for the length of time you were exposed. Finally, give your ears a break from the noise as often as you can. Ears need some silence to recover from listening to any sound for long periods. If you still need a higher volume than you are comfortable hearing, simply use some ear plugs to bring the volume down, and along with reducing the volume of the masking noise, you will get rid of the irritating sound as well.

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What Do You Think? Share Your Experiences, Questions, and Comments Below.




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