Among the easiest things you can do to protect your ability to hear is to use earplugs. 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. Ear plugs are labelled with a noise reduction rating (NRR) to indicate how much noise they are able to block. Better quality ear plugs will have NRR’s between 21 and 33. Second, consider where and when you’ll use the ear plugs most often. If you need something to block out the noise of traffic or construction work while studying or working, a lower NRR plug will likely be sufficient. In contrast, you will need ear plugs with a higher NRR rating if your profession consistently puts you near loud equipment or music.

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.

If you have a partner who snores, you may be shopping for earplugs to wear while you are sleeping. Look for specialized plugs that will block out the sound of snoring while still allowing you to hear your alarm clock, fire alarm, and other important sounds. Take time to test out the 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.

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