To protect your hearing, start with the fundamentals – earplugs. These small devices are inserted into the ear to block out disruptive or damaging sounds. Shopping for earplugs can be confusing, as there are a large variety of styles available, but with patience and a little bit of know-how you can find the plug for you.
Start by assessing the amount of noise dampening you require. Earplugs are labeled with a noise reduction rating (NRR) to indicate how much noise they are able to block. Better quality earplugs will have NRR’s between 21 and 33. Think about where you plan to use your earplugs. 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. In contrast, you will need earplugs with a higher NRR rating if your profession consistently puts you near loud equipment or music.
Third, evaluate the different materials that earplugs are made from. The most basic material is foam. Foam earplugs compress as they are pressed into the ear and expand slightly when released to plug the ear canal. In contrast, you can use silicone plugs to mold a perfectly-fitted barrier around the outside of your ear. Both foam and silicone earplugs need to be replaced periodically.
Your final step is to consider why you are shopping for plugs in the first place. A simple foam or silicone plug will suffice in many circumstances; however, there are specialized plugs available for specific environments. For example, musicians often have custom earplugs molded for them because they spend so much time around loud music both practicing and performing. These plugs are carefully crafted to fit your ear, allowing you to hear what you are playing while blocking out harmful sounds.
Many people shop for earplugs to wear while sleeping to block out the sound of their partner’s snoring. Earplugs 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. When comparing earplugs for sleeping, be sure to test them out with your head tilted sideways. This simulates the changes that take place in your ear canal while lying down, helping you determine whether the plugs will be comfortable while you are sleeping.
Although there are many choices of earplugs, a little advanced planning will help you narrow in on the ideal pair.