For many of our customers, a regular foam ear plug won’t cut it. They put it in their ears, wait for it to expand and… nothing. It slips out the minute they tilt their head and they might as well be wearing nothing. How can we put it politely? They have big ears. If you’re someone who has larger, wider or deeper ear canals, a regular sized ear plug simply won’t seal. This doesn’t mean you have to put up with your partner’s snoring, your kids yelling, or the noise from the traffic out the window — it just means you need a plug that’s appropriately shaped to your body. Luckily, ear plug designers have created entire ranges of plugs suitable for larger sized ears. In this guide, we’re going to count down our five favourite plugs for larger ears. A few things to note:
- Foam isn’t always the answer. While we’re going to discuss two great foam solutions for larger ears, if you think your ears are oddly shaped or have found that foam is not the solution, we would recommend you look into a cotton-wax plug or a plug made from silicone. These plugs are far more malleable, you literally shape them to your ear with your fingers, and are better for a larger range of ear sizes big or small.
- A great seal is better than a high noise rating. A lot of our customers say ‘no’ to anything with less than a 30dB rating, but none of the plugs they’ve tried fit! We always say the same thing: a great sealing plug is going to protect your ears a lot better than a ‘high strength’ solution that falls out of your ears in the night. For most sleepers, about 20-25dB of noise protection is more than sufficient, the priority should be a correctly fit set of plugs.
- Not all large ears are equal. Some people’s ears are wide, others are deep. For a wider ear, it’s generally better to look at silicone or something that can be shaped, while a regular large foam should be more than enough for a simply deep ear.
With that in mind let’s begin!
$8.99 for 10, discounts for 25, 50, 100 and 200 pair boxes.
The main advantage of a foam plug is that they expand to fill the space of the ear — for individuals with larger ear canals, however, this can be a huge negative. Often, we hear of customers coming to us with plugs that simply don’t expand enough, leaving the ear un-sealed, allowing sound to get in. That’s where the Max comes in. A larger sized plug with a flared base, the Howard Leight Max is perfect for larger ears, with a comfortable bell shape that creates an effective seal particularly around the entrance to the ear without causing discomfort to the sensitive ear canal. This bell shape has the added benefit of resisting removal: it’s not going to wriggle out while you sleep.
In terms of sound blocking, the Max is rated to NRR 33dB, one of the highest levels of sound blocking available in an ear plug. It’s optimised for work over an eight hour day at a work site, so it’s particularly comfortable for longer-term wear making it a perfect sleep solution. In addition, the closed cell-foam skin prevents dirt build up, allowing you to get more wears out of a single pair, making these a perfectly economical foam solution.
$16.95 for six pairs, also available in sets of 2 pair and boxes of 200 pairs.
If you’re someone, however, who complains of wide or irregular shaped ears, you may find that even the larger foam plugs create an insufficient seal. At this point, we say: why not silicone? The advantage of a silicone plug is that it’s mouldable in the fingers and holds even irregular shapes when inserted in the ear. The upshot of this is you’ll be able to create a sound-tight seal on any ear shape with a silicone ear plug. They’re effective even for the widest or deepest ears.
$14.99 for eight pairs.
A great and mouldable alternative to silicone, with an all-natural twist, is cotton-wax hybrid ear plugs. Like the silicone plugs, these are not plugs that expand to fill the ear, but are rather shaped and inserted in a manner that allows for the most unique fit for large or wide ear canals. Because they are made of entirely natural ingredients, they are the most hypoallergenic solution available and great for people with sensitive ear canals.
In terms of shaping over the course of a night’s sleep, the cotton-wax plug relies on the natural heat of the body to retain their shape, adjusting with your movements to retain their seal all night long. A benefit of the light and low density wax plug is that it’s extremely inconspicuous: you can light right on them (great for side sleepers) and will forget they’re even inserted due to their low density, low weight material.
Quies rate these at an estimated 27 NRR, expected to block around 27 decibels of noise across all frequencies, which is more than sufficient for sleep but could also be used as a work from home plug. In contrast to a lot of ear plugs, cotton-wax plugs are biodegradable, making them the most ecologically conscious solution.
However, if you’re someone who relies on ear plugs every night to sleep, why not find a reusable plug? The major advantage of a reusable plug is their economical nature: a single set lasts between three and twelve months, allowing you to save money on something you’re using all the time. If you’re someone with wide or large ears, the Alpine SleepSoft is the best solution, with an ultra-customisable tip that will work with almost every ear.
This is thanks to the thermo-shape material, relying on a principle similar to that of a wax or silicone plug, the thermo-shape tip of the SleepSoft uses the heat of the body to warm and adjust, creating a unique seal that’s effective, comfortable, and great at sound blocking. Another major advantage of a reusable plug is the presence of filters: the Alpine acoustic filter is going to block out the noises of snores and other disruptions, while allowing you to still hear your alarm -- a great solution that gives you rest without getting you in hot water with the boss.
They’re rated to block around 25 decibels across all frequencies, with the filters allowing them to be slightly better at blocking snores than the rating would indicate. They come with a carrying case and can be cleaned for continuous use. As an added bonus, each component of the SleepSoft is built with flexibility in mind, making this an appropriate choice for side sleepers or sensitive-eared individuals: it’s inconspicuous and comfortable, even over an entire night.
If you have larger or wider ears, a regular off the shelf plug is not going to cut it. The best solution for those ear types are malleable or larger plugs, with enough size to adequately seal off the entrance to the ear. In this guide, we’ve discussed the four best plugs across all major ear plug styles (foam, silicone, wax, and reusable) but it may be that you need specific advice. If so, just shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll sort you out.