Among the simplest things you can do to protect your hearing is to wear earplugs. When these small devices are inserted into your ear canal, disruptive or dangerous sounds are blocked out. There are many types of ear plugs on the market, making shopping confusing for some people, but with a little knowledge you can find the right pair for your situation.

First of all, figure out how much noise reduction you need from your ear plugs. Take a look at the noise reduction rating (NRR) on the box to find out how much sound it cancels out: better quality plugs have a rating between 21 and 33. Second, consider where and when you’ll use the ear plugs most often. Ear plugs with a lower NRR are sufficient for blocking out traffic noise or your roommate’s TV while studying. However if you spend a lot of time around fairly loud noises you’ll need a higher NRR as would be the case for heavy equipment operators or musicians.

The composition of your ear plugs is another important factor to consider. Foam ear plugs are made from a type of memory foam that is inserted into the ear canal. The foam is compressed during insertion then expands to plug the canal. Alternatively, silicone plugs are molded over the outside of the ear canal, allowing you to create a plug that fits your ear perfectly. Both foam and silicone ear plugs need to be replaced periodically.

Your final step is to consider why you are shopping for plugs in the first place. While foam and silicone ear plugs are great for casual use, certain professions and situations warrant investing in specialized ear plugs. If you are a musician who is constantly exposed to loud music, you may want to look into custom-made, non-disposable earplugs. Musician plugs are custom fitted and designed to allow the artist to hear themselves while blocking out harmful noise around them.

Many people shop for earplugs to wear while sleeping to block out the sound of their partner’s snoring. Ear plugs 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 ear plugs for sleeping, be sure to test them out with your head tilted sideways. This helps you figure out if they will be comfortable to wear while you are lying down.

Although there are many choices of ear plugs, a little advanced planning will help you narrow in on the ideal pair.

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