To protect your ability to hear, start with the fundamentals – ear plugs. When these small devices are inserted into your ear canal, disruptive or dangerous sounds are blocked out. 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. Take a look at the noise reduction rating (NRR) on the box to find out how much sound it cancels out: better quality plugs have a rating between 21 and 33. Figure out where and when you will use your ear plugs. For example, you will find that plugs with a lower NRR will be sufficient if you plan to use them to block out traffic noise while working or studying. However, if your profession requires you to spend time around loud equipment or music, a higher rating is more appropriate.

The composition of your ear plugs is another important factor to consider. 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. In contrast, you can use silicone plugs to mold a perfectly-fitted barrier around the outside of your ear. Both types of plugs are disposable.

Your final step is to consider why you are shopping for plugs in the first place. You can get away with using a simple silicone or foam plug in many situations, but there are specific plugs made for certain environments. If you are a musician who is constantly exposed to loud music, you may want to look into custom-made, non-disposable earplugs. These plugs are carefully crafted to fit your ear, allowing you to hear what you are playing while blocking out harmful sounds.

A totally different use of ear plugs is to block out a partner’s snoring while 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. Take time to test out the 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.

With a little time and consideration you should not have any difficulties finding the earplugs that are right for you.

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