Having tried numerous types of earplugs over the years and basically giving up on the idea that they can help you sleep, I feel like I can offer good advice to people who used to be in the same situation. And, as I will get into, wearing earplugs has made my sleep and my life immeasurably better and is something I do literally every night.
What earplugs do I recommend?
The best for me are Howard Leight Laser Lite. These are small, foam earplugs that are disposable, light, easy to carry around and offer a sizable noise reduction of 32 dB. They fit snugly in the ear canal and after getting used to them they are completely comfortable and you will forget you are wearing them. Their modest price point makes them an absolute necessity for anyone who is awoken easily be noise and is generally just good for noise dampening purposes.
You can check them out on Amazon here. I recommend getting a big bag (the one I linked has 200 pairs) as they are so cheap and you will find they wear out after some days use.
My opinion of Howard Leight Laser Lite
I love these earplugs. I use them every night. Every photo you see on this webpage was taken by me because I own loads of them and can wholeheartedly recommend them to people who are light sleepers or anyone else who wants to dampen sounds for any reason.
I must point out that they will not completely block out sound. As much as it pains me, blocking out sound is an impossibility due to soundwaves being particularly devious and being able to travel through your head and still reach the cochlea in your ear. Perhaps we will discover some technology in the future that can do this but right now, reducing the impact of sound is all we’ve got.
I’ve had great success with these in getting to sleep when people are talking in other rooms, music being played somewhere at a reasonable volume, someone snoring in the same room, loud cars and motorbikes coming from roads outside, sleeping with that awfully loud drone on airplanes (massive pet hate of mine). They are not always perfect, if people are talking in the same room or there’s really loud music like at a festival they haven’t worked for me.
How do they fit? (Are they comfortable?)
If you fit these properly then they fit snugly inside the ear canal and should make a firm seal, this is when they are at their best.
They are made of a type of foam that feels like memory foam although is not exactly the same. You can squeeze it and it will hold its shape for several seconds which is when you put it into your ear, it will slowly expand to form a seal. Because of this property, these earplugs will fit any size of ear (so the manufacturer claims, anyway.)
In terms of comfort, these are fantastic. I mentioned that I tried loads of kinds of earplugs before settling on these, well one pair that worked pretty well were these kind of plastic putty type things that would mold to my inner ear. They stopped the noise pretty well but I couldn’t stop feeling them in my ear and I ended up removing them, preferring to just deal with the noise! The Laser Lite earplugs are great, maybe a couple of minutes where you can feel them but after you adapt you barely even register that you are wearing them.
These will work whatever way you sleep. I am a side/front sleeper (terrible indecisive, I know) and for both these methods they are comfortable and I don’t notice them. The problem would be the side but even with your ear pressed against the bed or pillow you barely notice that they are in there. I find it impossible to sleep on my back but that should be fine too.
One more thing, they are very light and soft, weighing almost nothing which I assume helps with the comfort.
Are they reusable or not?
Yes and no. Officially, they are single use but in practice, you can get away with wearing them for a few days to a week and they’ll still be at their best as far as I can tell.
It is important to keep changing the ones you use though. Sometimes I’ve found that I’m getting annoyed by noises and getting woken up even with the earplugs in and it’s always because I’m using an older pair. The foam gets less firm and I assume it doesn’t make as tight a seal or the material is no longer good at stopping the sound waves. I don’t know.
It’s for this reason too that washing them does not help. Even if your earplugs feel a little grungy after a few days in your ear the problem is not the dirt, it’s the looseness of the material that is affecting its ability to do its job effectively.
What does NRR32 mean? (And why is it good?)
So these earplugs have NRR32 which is short for a Noise Reduction Rating of 32. This is the calculated by testing the number of decibels that the earplugs can reduce a given noise by. So looking at the chart below, a noisy subway train which stands at 100dB would sound like a hairdryer or a noisy restaurant at only 70dB. A conversation at 50dB would go all the way down to 20dB which is the volume of a quiet room.
You can see how these earplugs can be quite effective when you put it in those terms!
How to insert the earplugs
If you do decide to get some, then you need to be careful with how you insert the earplugs. As I mentioned previously, they must make a tight seal with your ear canal or they are not going to work. In addition, most people do not put them far enough down to get the full benefit. Here’s the video you want to watch which will show you fairly simply what you need to do.
VID (embed if you can)
The way the earplugs are designed is good too. They are thicker around the end so it’s easy to grab and pull out, give it a twist if it feels a little secure.
Can they be used for other noise reducing situations?
Obviously, I’m writing this from a viewpoint of getting to sleep (Sleep Dude, duh…) but they will be just as effective for other purposes. These really are the best earplugs available right now, comfortable with a solid 32dB reduction you can use them for shooting, bands/sound engineers, power tools…
(I am open to being wrong on this by the way, if you know better earplugs PLEASE tell me about them. As much as I love these bad boys, I could really go for another 10dB…)
– Each pair comes individually wrapped which keeps them clean, particularly if you are taking them with you somewhere like on transport or for a hotel.
– Speaking of traveling, try not to squeeze them in your luggage. This will destroy the foam and make it loose which will stop it from doing its job effectively. Try to keep it in the top of your bag or in an empty pocket.
– Learn how to insert them properly! Yea, I’ve already told you this, yea I’m gonna tell you again. There needs to be a firm seal or you will not get anywhere near the reduction you should. If you can’t do it, get a new pair and try with them.
– If you’re worried about compacting the ear wax in your ear then simply go to your doctor and get it removed. I do this once every year or so and it’s firstly fantastic to feel (and see, ugh…) all that crap in your ear ruining your hearing, but a buildup of wax can lead to ear pain and ear infections. So if you notice a little too much wax on the end of these earplugs when you take them out, get to your physician!
– The first time you use them, make sure you have got a LOUD alarm set. I’m so sensitive to noise that I don’t have a problem with this but they will block your alarm’s noise so you’re gonna need something louder than what you are used to. Try using vibration too, obviously that sidesteps the darn earplugs.
– You can buy these on a string colors much more money. I don’t see the point for sleeping, but if you need them for other things then maybe that’s the right way to go.
– The strange colors (fluorescent yellow and pink) probably seem a bit strange at first but they are high visibility which means if you’re working with a pneumatic drill it’s easy for your boss to know you are wearing the right protective gear. I find also that it’s a lot easier to find these things when they around your bed and bedroom (I sometimes throw them off during the night).
– As I mentioned, these offer a great reduction but are not always 100% effective. What I have found is that by combining them with white noise you have a very potent combination. You can use a fan, or a phone app and there are specific white noise machines if this is a real issue for you.
To sum up, these are the best, I don’t know how I lived without them.
Anyway, here’s the Amazon link to check them out again if that all sounds like good stuff.