Earplugs have different uses from lowering sound, protecting your ears when swimming, or blocking out your partner’s snoring or other noise when sleeping. When selecting which earplug is best for you, first you need to determine which earplug material will suit your needs. There are three materials you can choose from, and these are foam, wax, and silicone.
All these earplugs materials help in blocking out sound and noise. However, each has its benefits and cons. In this post, I will break down both the pros and cons of foam, wax, and silicone earplugs to help you pick one that fits your needs. Enjoy.
Our Best Foam Earplugs: Flents Ear Plugs, Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite Foam earplugs
Pros: Cheap, block out noise better, disposable
Cons: Can get uncomfortable after a while
Foam earplugs are the most popular type of earplug most people are familiar with. Foam earplugs are usually made of memory foam that conforms to the shape of your ear canal for maximum noise-blocking properties. Foam earplugs are inexpensive and block out noise better, which s why they are a popular option.
However, foam earplugs, because they are not easily moldable can cause ear pressure. This gets uncomfortable after several hours of using the earplugs. For people with sensitive ears, foam earplugs typically go inside the ear canal, which can cause itching and ear irritation. Foam is also a porous material, and this makes it more likely to harbor bacteria compared to other types of earplugs. For this reason, foam earplugs should be replaced frequently to avoid ear infection.
Pros: Comfortable, do not enter the ear canal, good for situation awareness
Cons: Do not block out noise like foam earplugs
Wax earplugs are made from natural wax, often beeswax, and they are designed to block out noise by covering the ear canal. Wax earplugs are moldable for an easy and very comfortable fit. Unlike foam earplugs, wax earplugs only cover the ear canal rather than going into the ear canal. This is why they are more comfortable and also good alternatives for sleeping.
Wax earplugs are comfortable, however, they do not block out noise better than foam earplugs. The NRR (noise reduction rating) of most wax earplugs stands at 20-23 dB. While this is good, it will not properly block out loud noise or snoring from your partner. However, they do quite a good job where noise is not too much while remaining comfortable.
Pros: Reusable, washable, good for situation awareness, inexpensive
Cons: Works well in moderate noise environments
Silicone earplugs can come in two varieties, i.e., hard silicone earplugs, and soft moldable silicone earplugs. Silicone earplugs’ major benefit over foam and wax earplugs is that they are reusable several times as long as you keep them clean. This is especially the case mostly with hard silicone earplugs. Moldable silicone earplugs are soft and very comfortable like wax earplugs.
What fails silicone earplugs the most is their ability to cancel noise passively better than foam earplugs. Silicone and wax earplugs are similar in their ability to reduce noise. Silicone earplugs can work well in moderate to slightly high noise environments. They also do a good job of reducing noise to tolerable levels.
Noise Blocking Effectiveness
If you live near a construction site or a noisy neighborhood, then foam earplugs are the best to block out most of the noise. Wax and silicone earplugs generally have the same noise blocking properties. However, they are still a good alternative to use for sleeping if you do not live in a noisy area.
The NRR or Noise Reduction Rating of a particular earplug will indicate the level of sound the earplug can block. Below is a table of the NRR figures of the different earplugs featured in this article.
|EAR PLUG||MATERIAL||NOISE REDUCTION RATING|
|Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs||Foam||33|
|Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite Foam earplugs||Foam||32|
|PQ Wax Ear Plugs||Wax||32|
|Kuyax Reusable Silicone Moldable||Moldable Silicone||32|
|ANBOW Reusable Silicone Ear Plugs||Silicone||32|
|Flents Ear Plugs||Foam||29|
|Quies Ear Plugs||Wax||27|
|Ohropax Wax Ear Plugs||Wax||23|
|Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs||Moldable Silicone||22|
If comfort is a major issue for you, wax and silicone earplugs are the best choice. For silicone earplugs, avoid the hard one and opt for moldable soft silicone earplugs. Wax and moldable silicone earplugs only cover the entrance of the ear canal. Foam earplugs, however, need to go into the ear canal to block out noise better. If you find it irritating to have things inside the ear, go for wax and moldable silicone earplugs. You can check our article on the alternatives to earplugs for sleeping.
The use of earplugs to block out noise when sleeping can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. A study in 2006 found out that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation have been associated with several health issues such as hypertension, obesity, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Earplugs can help you improve the quality of sleep, but make sure to choose the ones that are comfortable and fit you properly.
I hope this article is going to help you decide which between foam, wax, and silicone earplugs is best for you. If you have any comments or pressing questions, leave them below, and we can continue this conversation.