Ear plugs

See the article about firearms for an introduction. Here, I’ll focus on sleeping with earplugs rather than the other activities.

Sadly, my ear canals tend to start getting itchy after a few nights, and I haven’t managed to trace that to any particular cause (hygiene, material).

A bunch of neatly arranged earplugs
Figure 1. All earplugs listed here except MOLDEX, in roughly bottom-up left-to-right order



This list is ordered subjectively, from the best to the worst.

3M 1100

PU foam, SNR 37 dB. Cheap, fairly resistant to staining, generally awesome for sleeping with.

MOLDEX Spark Plugs 7800

PU foam, SNR 35 dB. Generally like 3M 1100, including low price. The just look wilder, and lack the glossy coating.

Mack’s Snore Blockers

PU foam, SNR ±34 dB (NRR 32 dB). More easily stained with ear wax than 3M 1100. Also unlike 3M 1100, these elongate when rolled up, and work even when inserted too shallowly.


PU foam, SNR 36 dB. Generally okay.

Mack’s Ultra Soft

PU foam, SNR ±34 dB (NRR 33 dB). In my opinion, an expensive, less comfortable version of 3M 1100, without the surface finish. Strangely porous.

Alpine SleepSoft

Soft slats, SNR 25 dB. Sleeping on the side may take some position searching, and you may succeed in wiggling them out, but they’re generally great, somehow just get wet rather than stained, and don’t need to be discarded after a few uses, unlike the rest here. Though I’ve started getting weird cracking/popping sounds upon movement after a bunch of uses, probably due to a failing seal.

Mack’s Slim Fit

PU foam, SNR ±31 dB (NRR 29 dB). These seem to be a bit too slim/small for me, making them the most problematic polyurethane plugs to insert, and for no perceptable advantage.


Wax, SNR 27 dB. Finicky to set up, what with removing all the surrounding cotton and softening them up in hand, and I’m afraid of pushing them in way too deep. They wiggle out too easily when sleeping on the side. But thanks to their smaller size, they’re also fairly comfortable, and they don’t absorb earwax.

3M ES-01-001

PU foam, SNR 36 dB. Unsuitable for sleeping with—​too much pressure when lying on my side.

3M ES-01-020

PU foam, SNR 39 dB. After a longer period, they get super uncomfortable, and seem to have woken me up. But the shape is quite friendly, as it seems impossible to stick them in too deeply. They also provide the strongest attenuation.

Mack’s Pillow Soft

Silicone putty, SNR 24 dB. It’s tricky for me to get a good seal, and then my ear can hurt slightly from the pressure of my attempts. Somewhat surprisingly, they survive eating (jaw movements). Particularly uncomfortable for sleeping on the side, because it’s a big blob of silicone that gets pushed in. On the plus side, they’re a lot more hygienic.

Notes regarding polyurethane foam plugs

Proper insertion takes some time to learn. Initially, I was very afraid of going too deep—​these days, I’ve noticed I just go level with my earholes, and rather hold my fingers in place for a while to prevent earplugs from pushing themselves out.

Be careful not to hurt your eardrums when pulling anything out of your ear canals. Wasting a few seconds slowly wiggling these out beats having to deal with pain.

Before reusing earplugs, you should first remove any earwax off of them. This is best achieved under running water (soap isn’t strictly necessary). I’m not sure how to go about drying them out—​mine tend to often lose the ability to stay compressed long enough.


Adding background noise is also effective to some extent, plus it seems to work as an alarm clock—​I get woken up by the sudden absence of sound, despite making playback fade out gradually. Just don’t expect any great reliability here; I haven’t even tried to measure the delay yet. I’m also not sure how to feel about putting a constant load on my hearing.


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