How We Rate Earplugs

Last updated: March 6, 2019

Overview & Methodology

Earplugs are judged by 5 standards: 

  • Noise Reduction Rating
  • Comfort
  • Fit
  • Durability 
  • Ease of Use

Learn more about how each of these qualities can affect your sleep when using earplugs.

Noise Reduction Rating

Keeping out noise is top priority when popping in earplugs. It becomes even more prevalent when you are using these earplugs to get quality sleep. The Noise Reduction Rating or NRR is simply a way to measure how effective ear protection is. The unit of measure is decibels (dB). The higher the decibels kept out, the higher the NRR. Depending on your sleeping situation, any pair of earplugs with a 30dB NRR or more should be plenty to protect your ears. This will be more than enough to cover snoring, your neighbors loud music habits or the sounds of a busy city.

Comfort

Earplugs are made of various materials. The most common one is foam, which offers comfort for most. There are several other materials such as wax or silicone. Regardless of the material, not all earplugs offer the same level of comfort. This is due to how the material is constructed. For example foam can be constructed in many ways. It is also due to the fact that some of us have more sensitive ear canals than others. All of this will be taken into account when we judge ear protection for sleeping.

Fit

Although earplugs are made to be one size fits all, sometimes our ear canals do not quite cooperate. Sometimes the plugs fall out in the middle of the night while we are shifting sleeping positions. Many foam earplugs can be rolled up, placed in the ear and than expand. This is not the case for wax and silicone. Wax earplugs are often constructed with cotton and some users complain that they leave cotton in their ear when taking them out. Silicone on the other hand either fit or they don’t depending on how well they cooperate with your ear. We analyze all this data when reviewing earplugs because if the plugs have an irritating fit or fall out during sleep, you will not be getting good rest.

Durability

Certain earplugs are made for one time use while others are made for long term use. This comes to a question of how durable they are. If they have a good NRR, comfort and fit the next thing you need to worry about is how long they will last. When judging this area we take into account how many earplugs come in a pack. For example, if a company sells 100 pair of earplugs and they score high on everything but only last a week than it is still fair to say this is a good option. There are plenty of well constructed earplugs available on the market. It is just a matter of how well they work during the users sleeping habits (example: tossing and turning or switching positions).

Ease of Use

One of the biggest concerns with earplugs is losing them. Since they are not that big they can easily be misplaced. This, along with the process of insertion to ear canal, falls under ease of use. Will the plugs be rolled up and put in or will they just pop in? How well do they stay? If a pair comes with a case, we may rank this area higher. Sometimes little details like this tie everything together. 

Additional Resources

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. Read our full medical disclaimer.