Wearing ear plugs is one of the simplest things you can do to protect your ears from harmful noise levels. These small devices are inserted into the ear to block out disruptive or damaging sounds. 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. Think about where you plan to 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.

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. These plugs are compressed as they are inserted, then expand to plug the ear. Alternatively, silicone plugs are molded over the outside of the ear canal, allowing you to create a plug that fits your ear perfectly. Both types of plugs are disposable.

Finally, consider the situation that you need the ear plugs for. You can get away with using a simple silicone or foam plug in many situations, but there are specific plugs made for certain environments. 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. You can find ear plugs that are specifically designed to block out snoring without keeping you from hearing your fire alarm and alarm clock. 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.

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