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Using ear plugs is one of the easiest things you can do to protect your ears from harmful noise levels. Ear plugs physically impede sound waves when inserted into the ear canal. Although they seem like a simple product, there are actually many different types of ear plugs on the market. Knowing the essential differences will allow you to pick the best ones.

Start by assessing the amount of noise dampening you require. 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. Figure out where and when you will use your ear plugs. 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.

Third, evaluate the different materials that ear plugs are made from. 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. Silicone ear plugs differ from foam in that they are molded over the outside of the ear canal. Both silicone and foam plugs are intended to be disposed of after several uses.

Lastly, evaluate whether you’d be better served with non-disposable, custom ear plugs. While foam and silicone ear plugs are great for casual use, certain professions and situations warrant investing in specialized ear plugs. For example, musicians often have custom ear plugs molded for them because they spend so much time around loud music both practicing and performing. Because these plugs are custom made to fit your ear, they will block out dangerous noise while still allowing you to hear the music you are making.

If you have a partner who snores, you may be shopping for earplugs to wear while you are sleeping. 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. Try out these plugs with your head tilted to the side. This simulates the changes that take place in your ear canal while lying down, helping you determine whether the plugs will be comfortable while you are sleeping.

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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