Every time we read about a new innovation in sleeping ear plugs, we always ask the same question: How does it compare to foam? Foam ear plugs, the first thing that pops into everyone’s mind when they hear the term ‘ear plugs’, are reliable, soft, and they block a lot of sound. Your average foam plug can block anywhere from 20 to 33 decibels of noise, there’s a reason they wear them on building sites and in the bedroom. But not all foam ear plugs are rated the same. In this guide, we’re counting down the top five foam ear plugs for sleep but before we begin, a few rules:
- Comfort is weighted as heavily as noise blocking: it doesn’t matter if you have the strongest plugs in the world, if they cause discomfort you’re still going to struggle to sleep.
- A sleeping ear plug can often be narrower, shorter, or softer than the plugs we wear on site: we’re prioritising the slimmer and softer plugs, since these are the more comfortable for the majority of users.
- We’re prioritising high noise blocking foam: not everyone wants the highest level of sound blocking, some people prefer a medium strength plug for sleep (and if you do, get in touch) but in this guide we want the strongest plugs, best for the loudest snores.
The only other thing to note is that price is relative to the number of plugs. We’ve listed the price for the smallest number of units (so you can test them!) but big discounts exist once you order 20, 50, 100, or more.
With that in mind, let’s get started. Coming in at #5:
($10.95 for 10, available also in sets of 20, 50, 100, and boxes of 200).
Despite being introduced 40 years ago, the 3M Ear Classic remains very popular for its iconic oval shape and high degree of sound blocking. These are expected to block around 29 decibels of sound when properly fitted, somewhat low compared to some of the others in this list, but still very high as far as an ordinary ear plug is concerned. The 3M Ear Classic holds its shape well, with a pliant foam body that provides a good seal with the added bonus of being moisture-resistant. Compared to some of the other plugs tested, this one is slightly less comfortable and the lack of tapering may be a little less comfortable for individuals with narrow or small ear canals. If you love the 3M Ear Classic and want a smaller plug, they have a smaller version of the same plug available for the same price, the Classic Platinum.
($7.95 for three pairs, available in sets of 7, 10, 50 and 100 pairs)
While the 3M Ear Classic still markets itself primarily as an industrial plug, moving into Macks we start looking at truly sleep-focussed plugs, designed with comfort as a priority. Coming in at number four, the Macks Slim Fit is a smaller foam plug, tapered with a narrower stem, that makes it an excellent choice for sleeping. A common misconception is that slim fit plugs are only for women, young adults, or individuals with a narrower ear canal. In reality, a slim fit plug differentiates itself by exerting less pressure on the ear canal when fit. For the vast majority of ear shapes, these plugs should be sufficient to block out sound and create a good night’s sleep. (Word of warning, though, if you have larger ear canals, I’d look for something bigger).
Like the 3M Classic, the Macks Slim Fit are rated at 29 NRR. Expected to block out about 29 decibels of noise when properly worn. The plugs are tapered (the tip is narrower than the base) which makes them more easily fitted into the ear, as well as easily removed. Macks plugs are known for their smooth skin, a design feature that minimises the chance of friction against the sensitive ear canal and ensures a soft fit.
3. Uvex Super Soft Small Orange
Coming in number three is another industrial plug that has found a real home among the Earjobs family as a reliable sleep solution, the Uvex Super Soft Small Orange. Exactly what it says, it’s super soft, it’s small, it’s orange. What more could you want? One distinct element of the Super Soft Small Orange that elevates it to third place is the X emboss on the base, almost like a small x-shaped hole has been hollowed out from the plug. The effect of this is to reduce weight, density, and pressure from the plug and into your ear. This makes the Super Soft Small Orange one of the lightest plugs in the list and also one of the least likely to cause pressure-based discomfort. For individuals with the most sensitive ears, who have found that ear plugs create an uncomfortable ‘full’ feeling in the ear, try the Super Soft Small Orange. A plug this light is already great for ear fatigue: if you like ear plugs, but find yourself removing them in the night, try these instead — they’re likely to be light enough to keep you wearing for longer.
One thing to note about these, they have the narrowest tip of any plug featured in this list. They’re the smallest in terms of length and diameter at both ends. This makes it a great solution for women, young adults, or individuals with smaller ear canals, but it might not be as general use as some of the other plugs listed. For people who like the Super Soft Small Orange, however, they can never have enough. Whenever we sell out, we’re inundated with emails about when they’ll be back.
($13.95 for 14 pairs, also available in sets of 50 and 100 pairs)
On the other end of the size spectrum is the Hearos Original Formulation Xtreme Protection, the largest sleeping ear plug we stock, a big, soft, and comfy sleep solution that really excels for individuals with larger ears or a desire for the greatest seal.
Like the other plugs in the top four, these are tapered, but the difference between the tip and the base is far more subtle. These plugs are bigger than all the others on this list, with a smooth skin designed to resist any oils or dirt from the ear. Don’t let the size fool you, however, like all foam plugs these are able to compress very small and fit in any ear, expanding to create a strong seal. While we wouldn’t recommend these for young adults, children, or individuals with small ears, they’re a very handy solution for anyone who wants a strong seal. Why? The Hearos Xtreme are strong. In fact, they’re the highest rated sound blocking plug on this list, expected to block up to 33 decibels (!!!) of noise when properly fitted. For people who love foam, we often recommend the Hearos Xtreme as a great solution for louder bedrooms or for shift workers who need to maximise their sleep during the day.
But only one plug can reign supreme. In 2021, the best foam ear plug for sleep is…
($7.95 for three pairs, also available in sets of 7, 10, 50 and 100 pairs)
Our most popular, most highly rated foam ear plug, the Mack’s Dreamgirl is a comfortable, high noise blocking foam sleep solution with a size that’s ‘just right’ for almost every ear. They have a smaller profile, somewhere between the ‘slim fit’ and and the 3M Ear in sizing, which makes them versatile. Tapered, with the same weight and density reducing contoured x on the base, they are low pressure and light, with the same advantages as the Super Soft Small Orange but in a more flexible sizing and shape. Estimated to block around 30 decibels, these are a strong plug, more than suitable for snores and the kinds of noises that disrupt sleep, while retaining the necessary softness and comfort to ensure that the plugs don’t replace one issue with another.
Like all Macks, the smooth skinned surface mitigates discomfort and also makes the plugs resistant to dirt or mess. We hear reports from customers that a single pair can be used up to five times before being switched out, which makes these an economical solution over the long run (though as ever: all ears and all results do vary!) Like all foam plugs, they retain their shape well even after being squashed, with the hollow base enabling the Dreamgirl to quickly spring back to shape, creating a solid seal quickly after insertion. Macks promise a softer foam, with a design that minimises discomfort, and the results show: of the five plugs ranked here, the Dreamgirl is the softest and best feeling in the ear, even after a night of sleep.
To see our full sleeping ear plug range, click here. If you’re after specific advice, the Earjobs Support Team is available Monday to Friday at firstname.lastname@example.org.