To preserve your ability to hear, begin with the fundamentals – ear plugs. When these small devices are inserted into your ear canal, disruptive or dangerous sounds are blocked out. Shopping for ear plugs 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.
The first thing to think about when shopping for ear plugs is the amount of noise reduction you need. 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. Figure out where and when you will use your ear plugs. Ear plugs with a lower NRR are sufficient for blocking out traffic noise or your roommate’s TV while studying. However, if your profession requires you to spend time around loud equipment or music, a higher rating is more appropriate.
Next, take some time to consider the composition of the plugs you are considering. Foam ear plugs are made from a type of memory foam that is inserted into the ear canal. Foam ear plugs compress as they are pressed into the ear and expand slightly when released to plug the ear canal. Silicone ear plugs differ from foam in that they are molded over the outside of the ear canal. Both foam and silicone ear plugs need to be replaced periodically.
Finally, consider the situation that you need the ear plugs for. While foam and silicone ear plugs are great for casual use, certain professions and situations warrant investing in specialized ear plugs. Musicians often wear custom-made, non-disposable earplugs to help protect their hearing while they are performing. Musician plugs are custom fitted and designed to allow the artist to hear themselves while blocking out harmful noise around them.
A totally different use of ear plugs is to block out a partner’s snoring while sleeping. You can find ear plugs that are specifically designed to block out snoring without keeping you from hearing your fire alarm and alarm clock. Try out these plugs with your head tilted to the side. This helps you figure out if they will be comfortable to wear while you are lying down.
If you take the time to really think about what you need your earplugs for, you should not have any problems finding a pair that suits you.