To preserve your ability to hear, start with the basics – earplugs. Ear plugs physically impede sound waves when inserted into the ear canal. There are many types of ear plugs on the market, making shopping confusing for some people, but with a little knowledge you can find the right pair for your situation.
First of all, figure out how much noise reduction you need from your ear plugs. Every plug has a noise reduction rating (NRR) that signifies the amount of noise it cancels out, with the best quality ear plugs ranging from 21 to 33 decibels. Second, consider where and when you’ll use the ear plugs most often. Ear plugs with a lower NRR are sufficient for blocking out traffic noise or your roommate’s TV while studying. 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 is one of the most basic materials used in ear plugs. 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 silicone and foam plugs are intended to be disposed of after several uses.
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. 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.
A totally different use of ear plugs is to block out a partner’s snoring while 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.