The Best Earplugs for Sleeping While Traveling
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 could literally end up unable to remember the last night you had the recommended 7-9 hours. And if you, like me, are 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.
“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, etc. 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 70-80 decibels. Most earplugs cover a range of 15 to 30 decibels.
Foam plugs, which are the most popular option, typically block 20-30 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-cancelling earbuds or headphones, make sure to frequently wipe them with antibacterial wipes.
Now, check out 11 earplug options that will ensure you get your beauty rest, at home and away.
Best Overall: Mack's Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs
These Amazon best-sellers have more than 1,800 five-star reviews. They are molded with low-pressure, tapered foam to provide maximum comfort even if you are a side sleeper. They’re also a T+L editors’ favorite after testing.
To buy: amazon.com, $8/50 pairs
Best Contoured Earplugs: Flents Super Sleep Comfort Foam Earplugs
Some earplugs are too long for those with short ear canals and may cause discomfort, especially if you are a side sleeper. Flents’ earplugs are deliberately designed to address that scenario. They are easily compressed and inserted into the ear canal and fit snugly to block out any surrounding noise.
To buy: amazon.com, $6/10 pairs
Best for Side Sleepers: Peace & Quiet Earplugs
These bright yellow earplugs are made from pillowy soft and elastic foam that fits itself to the shape of your ear canal and compresses without causing any pain or discomfort. They come with an additional pair of reusable earplugs and a storage case that's great for travel.
To buy: amazon.com, $12/36 pairs
Best for Noise-cancelling: Hearos Xtreme 100 Pair Foam Earplugs
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 are easy to insert and remove and can even be used for swimming.
To buy: amazon.com, $27/100 pairs
Best Moldable Earplugs: Mack's Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs
If foam earplugs don’t feel comfortable to you, then try out these best-selling silicone ones. They are extremely easy to mold to the contour of your ears and will get you a good night’s sleep. They are also excellent for swimming and are proven to relieve airplane ear pressure.
To buy: amazon.com, $4/6 pairs
Best Disposable Earplugs: Howard Leight by Honeywell Laser Lite Foam Earplugs
Fall asleep easily in-flight with these small, T-shaped earplugs that are easy to insert and remove. (1,250 five-star Amazon reviewers agree.) They come individually packaged and are made from low-pressure, smooth, soil-resistant foam that expands once you insert the earplug into your ear.
To buy: amazon.com, $6/10 pairs
Best Reusable Earplugs: Rovazo Silicone Earplugs
These multifunctional, waterproof earplugs are great for sleeping, swimming, airplanes, and concerts. They are made from BPA-free, hypoallergenic silicone that’s washable and reusable.
To buy: amazon.com, $10/2 pairs
Best for Small Ears: Ohropax Wax Earplugs
These discreet, German-made earplugs have been helping people sleep for more than 100 years. Crafted from a blend of paraffin waxes covered in cotton wool, they can be molded so they fit securely into the ear canal. You can also halve them for smaller ear canals. They can even be used for swimming and to protect from moisture and wind.
To buy: amazon.com, $6/6 pairs
Best Corded Earplugs: Winomo Silicone Earplugs
Corded earplugs are great for people who always seem to lose one earplug from a pair. These are made from soft and snug-fitting silicone that provides excellent noise reduction.
To buy: amazon.com, $11/50 pairs
Best Sleep Headphones: Maxrock Sleep Earplugs
Lightweight and comfortable, these ergonomically designed silicone earbuds effectively block out any background noise so you can blissfully fall asleep while listening to music or soothing white noise.
To buy: amazon.com, $14
Best Earplugs With an Alarm: Bose Noise-masking Sleepbuds
Bose’s smart Sleepbuds are designed only for sleep, not streaming music. They feature 10 pre-loaded soothing soundtracks that mask ambient noise for up to 16 hours per battery charge. You can even set up a wake-up alarm that only you will hear via the Bose Sleep app.
To buy: bose.com, $250/pair