The 9 Best Earplugs for Sleep, Travel, and More

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best earplugs for sleeping and travel
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One of the most challenging aspects of traveling is getting enough sleep — let alone enough high-quality sleep. Between long flights, airport transfers, foreign beds, and jet lag, you likely aren't getting recommended seven to nine hours. And if you're a very light sleeper by nature, even a short nap is out of the question when you are surrounded by dozens of strangers (and a screaming baby or two) on a plane. Luckily, there are several styles of earplugs available to block out loud noises — wherever you happen to be right now.

"Some sleepers are just more sensitive to any ambient noise during the night — cars on the street, other late-night wakers walking around, clocks ticking, and more. In these cases, earplugs may help," said Dr. Nina L. Shapiro, director of pediatric ear, nose, and throat at the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA and professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

But how do you know which earplugs are the best for you?

"Earplug choice is based on several factors — degree of noise you wish to block out, [or noise reduction rating, measured as number of decibels blocked], comfort, and dual function," Dr. Shapiro explained.

Related: The Best Sleep Masks for Traveling

Basically, the higher the noise reduction rating (or NRR), the more sound blocked. For example, quiet speech is about 20 decibels, conversational speech is about 40 decibels, and an alarm clock is about 70 to 80 decibels. Most earplugs cover a range of 15 to 30 decibels.

Foam plugs, which are the most popular option, typically block 20 to 30 decibels of sound. "Many foam earplugs are disposable, so minimizing frequent use will minimize chance of skin infection," Dr. Shapiro said. She also explained that while there is no danger in using earplugs, some can cause irritation to the ear canals and potentially lead to an infection called otitis externa. You should stop use immediately if you feel anything bothersome and consult your doctor.

Another material option is silicone — most of these can be molded to fit the exact shape of your ear canal and are easy to clean with soap and water. If you opt for something more high-tech, such as noise-canceling earbuds or headphones, make sure to frequently wipe them with antibacterial wipes.

These are the best earplugs to ensure you get the best sleep you can (no matter where you are in the world):

Best Overall: Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs
Best Value: Flents Ear Plugs with Case
Best for Travel: EarPlanes Earplugs
Best Noise-Canceling Option: Flents Quiet Time Foam Earplugs
Best Moldable Option: Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs
Best Contoured Option: Howard Leight Laser Lite Uncorded Earplugs
Best Reusable Option: Mack's Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs
Best Corded Option: 3M Reusable Corded Earplugs
Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones

01 of 09

Best Overall: Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

macks-ultra-soft-foam-earplugs-50-pair-AMZN-EAR0620.jpg

With over 3,400 positive reviews, these are the most popular earplugs on Amazon. They're soft, comfortable, and even discreet thanks to their neutral color (unlike many others that come in bright hues). "Best ones I've used yet for sleeping," wrote one customer. "I can barely hear anything other than my own heartbeat."

NRR: 32

To buy: amazon.com, $10/50 pairs

02 of 09

Best Value: Flents Ear Plugs with Case

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

If you're looking for an affordable, no-frills option, try these soft foam earplugs from Flents. They're specifically designed for sleeping, so they'll block out snoring, television sounds, and other loud noises. At just $3 for 20 pieces (plus a carrying case!), the earplugs come out to less than 30 cents per pair — a price that can't really be beat.

NRR: 32

To buy: amazon.com, $3 (was $5)/10 pairs

03 of 09

Best for Travel: EarPlanes Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

These popular earplugs are designed to be worn while on a plane, so they're perfect for helping you sleep while traveling. They are made of soft hypoallergenic silicone to provide maximum comfort even if you are a side sleeper. Plenty of reviewers say they'll never fly without them again — the brand even says that these earplugs have been tested by US Navy pilots.

NRR: 20

To buy: amazon.com, $7/pair

04 of 09

Best Noise-Canceling Option: Flents Quiet Time Foam Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

You'll wake up well-rested even in the noisiest of environments thanks to these hypoallergenic, super-soft foam earplugs with the highest NRR on our list. They're easy to insert and remove, and they work just as well on a plane as they do in a pool.

NRR: 33

To buy: amazon.com, $14/50 pairs

05 of 09

Best Moldable Option: Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

If foam earplugs don't feel comfortable to you, then try out these best-selling silicone ones for a snug fit. They are extremely easy to mold to the contours of your ears and will help you get a good night's sleep. If they don't fit perfectly the first time, you can simply reheat them and then mold them again.

NRR: 31

To buy: amazon.com, $26/pair

06 of 09

Best Contoured Option: Howard Leight Laser Lite Uncorded Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

Fall asleep easily in-flight with these small T-shaped earplugs that are easy to insert and remove — even if you have smaller ears, according to reviewers. They come individually packaged and are made from low-pressure, smooth, soil-resistant foam that expands once you insert the earplugs into your ears.

NRR: 32

To buy: amazon.com, $10/25 pairs

07 of 09

Best Reusable Option: Mack's Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

These multifunctional, waterproof earplugs are great for sleeping, swimming, riding airplanes, and attending concerts. They are made from silicone that's washable and reusable. One reviewer says these earplugs are "soft and pliable" so they fit perfectly in their ears.

NRR: 22

To buy: amazon.com, $4/six pairs

08 of 09

Best Corded Option: 3M Reusable Corded Earplugs

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

Corded earplugs are great for people who always seem to lose one earplug from a pair. When you don't need to block out background noise, just keep them around your neck while not in use. These are made from a three-tiered soft material for a super snug fit and excellent noise reduction.

NRR: 25

To buy: amazon.com, $6/three pairs

09 of 09

Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds: Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones

Ear Plugs
Courtesy of Amazon

Even though they're not technically earplugs, these in-ear headphones are a great option if you're looking for something multifunctional, since they can cancel out noise and play your favorite soothing music. (Good to know: The battery lasts up to 16 hours on a full charge.) The buds are designed to securely and comfortably stay in your ears, so you don't need to worry about them falling out mid-nap.

NRR: N/A

To buy: amazon.com, $249/pair

Updated by
Amina Lake Abdelrahman

Amina covers all of the best products you should buy across home, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle categories for Meredith Corporation. When she's not writing, you can find her sipping on coffee, dancing to work out, or reading a good book.

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