What are the best ear plugs

Earplug test 2021 • The 6 best earplugs in comparison

What are earplugs and how do they work?

Basically, the term earplugs is pretty self-explanatory: They are small objects, usually made of a soft material such as foam, which you insert into your ear canal to reduce the volume level of those around you.

They are used in a wide variety of areas in everyday life. Usually, earplugs are used to suppress noise, such as when sleeping or on a construction site. Some models are also used by swimmers to prevent water and bacteria from entering the inner ear.

Earplug price / quality diagram

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What types of earplugs are there?

Earplugs can be distinguished in two main ways. On the one hand, there is the distinction between the various materials that were used in production and often also provide information about the service life.

On the other hand, they can also be distinguished according to their respective area of ​​application. Some earplugs are intended for a peaceful sleep, others for general noise suppression in everyday life and still others for sports.

Made of foam

The earplugs that you have probably already thought of are made of this or similar materials: small cylinders that you squeeze together, insert into your ear and then expand again.

Most often these are sold in packs with a large number of pairs. They should only be used once and then thrown away to avoid infection.

The cylindrical earplugs made of foam or similar materials are usually made in a certain unit size. They are therefore often not suitable for people with particularly large or small ear canals. But since they are not too expensive, it may still be worth buying to try out.

Made of plastic

Plastic earplugs are usually thinner than foam ones. Instead of blocking the ear canal with its mass, lamellae are attached to the pin. These also block out loud noises well. Since the lamellas are of different sizes, different ear sizes are also served.

Compared to foam earplugs, those made of plastic have the advantage that they can be cleaned and thus reused for a longer period of time. But they are also a bit more expensive and come with a smaller scope of delivery of usually one or two pairs.


Otoplasty is the term for a pair of custom-made earplugs. These can be made by the hearing aid acoustician, who will measure your auricle and your inner ear. This ensures a very high accuracy of fit, which is not the case with one-size-fits-all plugs. Your hearing aid acoustician can also install electronic components that filter out specific frequencies.

Earmolds are far more expensive than commercially available models and can cost between € 100 and € 500, depending on the processing and electronic components. But they are also very durable and perfectly tailored to your ear and your needs.

Ear plugs for sleeping

Many people experience difficulty sleeping due to high levels of noise during the night or early in the morning. If your partner snores, for example, or if construction work begins on your doorstep at six in the morning, this can have a significant impact on your sleep. Fatigue and unproductivity during the day are the result.

Basically, you can wear earplugs at night if you clean them well before and after. You have to decide for yourself whether it is comfortable to wear at night or not. If your ears hurt after a short time when wearing hard plastic ear protection, then you should do without it. Also, you shouldn't wear ear protection every night to avoid getting used to it.

Earplugs for swimming

If you swim regularly, you may find it worth investing in a pair of custom-made earplugs. Instead of noise reduction, it is about protecting the ear from inflammation. Because especially in still waters like pools, large bacterial colonies quickly develop, which can lead to infections of the inner ear.

In addition, earplugs also provide comfort when swimming: Firstly, they reduce the penetration of water into the ear. Second, you can also reduce pressure on the ear while diving.

Commercially available foam earplugs are useless in swimming because they fall out too quickly and should not get wet. Rather, grab an earmold and mention that you will be using it for swimming.

Purchase criteria in the earplug test 2021

In the following we have put together some important purchase criteria for earplugs for you. This allows you to decide which type of earplug is suitable for you personally.

Reusability of earplugs

Especially earplugs made of foam and with a large scope of delivery of pairs should only be used once and then disposed of. These cannot and should not be cleaned and reused. If you are looking for a short-term remedy against noise, for example at a temporary construction site on your doorstep, then a few disposable earplugs may be enough for you.

In principle, other types of earplugs, such as those made of silicone and earmolds, with thorough and regular cleaning, are durable until you can notice a noticeable reduction in noise suppression. When buying an earmold, ask how long it will last.

Side effects of earplugs

Especially if the earplugs are not washed well and regularly, there is a risk that germs can get into the ear and cause health problems there. The consequences can range from inflammation and itching to otitis media.

In addition, wearing earplugs on a regular basis can lead to habituation. Once you are used to the silence provided by earplugs, you can find everyday noises even louder and more uncomfortable than before without the earplugs. This can also prevent you from falling asleep.

And even if it sounds strange, earplugs can work too well too. For example, if you miss the alarm clock in the morning or a warning signal in traffic. This is why you should also avoid letting your earbuds provide complete silence.

Having earplugs made of a harder material the wrong size for you can quickly become painful. If you experience symptoms such as ear pain, do not wear the ear protection.

Noise cancellation from earplugs

For most people, noise cancellation is the number one reason to buy earplugs. This is usually stated on the packaging in decibels. These are guidelines, not a guarantee.

According to the manufacturer, the suppression of disposable foam earplugs is usually between 10 and 35 decibels. Earmolds can reduce noise by up to 40 decibels. As an example: A normal conversation has about 60 decibels, the ticking of a wristwatch 30. From 80 decibels one speaks of noise.

Visibility of earplugs

If you are uncomfortable with other people seeing your hearing protection on a day-to-day basis, the best thing to do is to use a skin-colored or clear pair of earplugs. So it is not even noticeable that you are wearing them.

Alternatives to earplugs

If you are looking for an alternative to earplugs on the construction site or when hunting and in general shooting sports, you might find what you are looking for with earmuffs. These are similar to headphones and offer significantly better hearing protection than earplugs. In some cases, they can even filter out individual noises such as gunshots and cannot completely block out everyday noises such as conversations.

Of course, you cannot wear such hearing protection in everyday life and in bed. Wireless headphones could be a feasible alternative when sleeping, but even these are likely to be bulky and can be more distracting if you're playing music. So it is difficult to avoid earplugs in everyday life to avoid noise.

Further links and sources


Who needs earplugs?

In principle, earplugs are suitable for all people who are exposed to high levels of noise. This does not have to be continuous. An example would be poor sleep caused by your partner's snoring or loud neighbors music. If you find yourself exposed to noise at work or in general in everyday life, earplugs can also help. And athletes should also consider getting a pair of earplugs. Earplugs are therefore suitable for people who: have problems sleeping due to noise pollution, want to prevent tinnitus, are often exposed to high levels of noise in everyday life, do a lot of swimming, practice shooting or go hunting.

Which are the best earplugs?

It all depends on what you are looking for. Different types of earplugs are suitable depending on the area of ​​application. For sleeping, people tend to use disposable models, whereas for swimming they use custom-made models. The highest quality and also precisely tailored to your ears are otoplastics that you have made by a hearing aid acoustician. Of course, this quality also has its price.

How do you use earplugs correctly?

For disposable earbuds, roll up the tip first. Then, reach over your head with your arm and pull your ear up slightly. This opens the ear canal better. Then insert the plug and hold it for a good 10 seconds so that it can spread. To insert an earmold, grasp it between your thumb and forefinger. Twist it slightly backwards in your ear. Again, you should pull your ear up slightly.

Is it bad to sleep with earplugs in your ear?

Basically it is possible. Clean the earbuds before use or use a new pair of foam earbuds. Remove the hearing protection if you experience pain when lying on your side. Be aware that wearing earplugs too regularly can lead to habituation to the resulting silence. Then you may find everyday noises much louder. You should also still be able to hear the alarm clock or fire alarm.

What do customized earplugs cost?

Prices for an earmold vary widely. You should ask your hearing care professional here directly. Depending on the materials used and the area of ​​application, the costs are around € 75-175. There are also cheaper models from 45 €, as well as much more expensive models for shooting athletes, which contain electronic components that filter out certain frequencies (up to 500 €).

Which earplugs help against tinnitus?

Basically, earplugs should be used primarily for tinnitus prevention by blocking out loud noises from around you. Tinnitus can be even more uncomfortable in silence than it already is. Here it is questionable whether earplugs really help.

How do I get earplugs clean again?

To clean your reusable earplugs, mild soap with water is sufficient. Let the earbuds dry before use. You can also quickly clean the earplugs with a cleaning cloth or a cleaning spray. Avoid chemical cleaners, which can attack the material.

How often can you use earplugs?

It all depends on the model. Basically, you should only use cheap one-size-fits-all foam earplugs once and then dispose of them. They are not intended to be cleaned and therefore easily become a health hazard. Wearing the earplugs without cleaning them first can lead to infections. You can of course reuse earmolds that were made especially for you by a hearing aid acoustician. If used correctly, these can last for a few years. Nevertheless, clean them before each use to prevent infection. The situation is similar with prefabricated earplugs made of silicone or hard plastic. You can also use these again until the sound-absorbing effect wears off. And of course you need to brush these earbuds before and after use as well. The service life varies depending on the model.

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Julia Hofermayer

I am a medical student, 28 years old.
To finance my studies, I test products in the health sector and work part-time as a hairdresser.
Since I often deal with care products for skin and hair, I see myself in good hands in the areas of drugstore & health.

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