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Best earplugs 2024

Whether you're a frequent flyer, gig-goer or swimmer, a good pair of earplugs can do wonders for your ears

It’s a noisy world. Whether it’s your partner snoring, a flatmate playing music, roadworks outside or planes overhead, noise is hard to escape. Short of jetting off to your private island, living in a bunker or buying a balloon with an ensuite bedroom, your best bet is to invest in a decent pair of earplugs. These won’t stop the noise, but they can reduce it. Here’s our pick of the best earplugs, including those for use while swimming (to prevent infections) and to use on planes if you suffer from ear pain during take-off and landing.

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Best earplugs: At a glance

How to choose the best earplugs for you

When choosing earplugs, it helps to have a bit of knowledge – but once you’ve grasped a few basic principles, it’s pretty straightforward to identify the right model for you. First, let’s deal with the easy stuff.

What size earplugs do I need?

Some earplugs come with a range of differently sized earpieces – usually three – while some are unitised due to their design. Few people report problems with either type after a bit of trial and error.

How do I keep them clean?

Some earplugs are made of foam or rubber and can be washed with a drop of washing up liquid. Silicone plugs tend to be disposable, although some have more a slightly more complex construction with washable earpieces. Again, it’s pretty easy to keep them clean and many come in multipacks so you can simply move on to a new pair when you decide to dispose of used plugs.

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How do I choose the right type of earplugs?

Some people want earplugs to avoid ear infections while swimming or to reduce ear pain on planes. If that’s you then you can skip straight ahead to our reviews.

However, if noise is your primary concern, it’s worth knowing a bit about the science involved. Earplugs attenuate (reduce) the noise entering your ear, effectively lowering its decibel level. As a rough guide, most speech is around 60dB, a rock gig might be around 110dB and a fighter plane taking off is 150dB. Damage is thought to occur when your ear is exposed to roughly 130dB for prolonged periods.

To know how much noise reduction a pair of earplugs will provide, look for the Single Number Rating (SNR). This refers to how many decibels your earplugs will reduce the noise by. So earplugs with an SNR of 20 will turn an in-your-face 110dB rock band into a much more bearable 90dB one.

In practice, earplugs tend to affect some frequencies more than others, so their ratings are often broken down into high (H), medium (M) and low (L) frequencies. You might, for example, see a rating expressed as “H=30, M=24, L=22”. This helps you find the right earplugs for your particular scenario. Naturally, you can use any earplugs for any purpose, but if you’re looking to get some sleep next to your snoring partner, earplugs that filter out low noises will be more effective than ones that mostly impact high frequencies.

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The best earplugs to buy in 2023

1. 3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs: The best earplugs for everyday use

Price: £4 for 20 pairs | Buy now from Amazon

You’ll find these earplugs backstage at many festivals, bought in bulk and kept in pouches cable-tied to the scaffolding poles forming the stage. There’s a reason for that: they’re cheap, disposable, will fit almost any ear and are particularly good at attenuating higher frequencies, which is where the loudest and most damaging noise tends to occur in live music.

On the downside, they only come with a cardboard case, so they can easily get lost, or fall out in a pocket and end up covered in muck and fluff.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=28dB, H=30dB, M=24dB, L=22dB; Construction: Foam; Sizes: 1; Storage: Cardboard case

2. Alpine PartyPlug: The best earplugs for clubs and pubs

Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon

They don’t offer the same level of protection as some of the other earplugs here, with only 19dB of attenuation, but the PartyPlug is a great option if you often find your ears ringing after loud nights out at pubs and clubs.

The filters are designed so it’s still possible to participate in conversations, and they’re transparent, which means it’s unlikely anyone will notice you’re wearing them. Best of all, the PartyPlug comes with a handy case you can attach to your keyring so they’re always there when you need them. They’re an obvious choice if you have a busy social life and want to protect your hearing.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=19dB, L=12dB, M=17dB, H=19dB; Construction: Thermoplastic; Sizes: 1; Storage: Case supplied

3. Minuendo Lossless Earplugs: The best premium earplugs

Price: £120 | Buy now from Amazon

With user-adjustable audio attenuation, the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs are a true standout. A small slider on the side of each plug allows you to select between 7 and 25dB of attenuation manually. This lets you set your ideal volume level based on your surroundings. As you’d expect at this price point, the Minuendo Earplugs maintain excellent audio clarity when in use, with a gradual roll-off of higher frequencies towards the extremes of its attenuation.

The kit includes 11 different ear tips to ensure you achieve a comfortable fit, a carrying case, a neck strap and the plugs themselves are magnetic, ensuring they remain secure around your neck when not in use.

They’re not the cheapest option but if you’re after a pair of plugs that can cover everything from open mics to open-air festivals, the Minuendo Earplugs are certainly worth considering.

Key specs – Attenuation: 7-25dB; Construction: Silicone; Sizes: 1; Storage: Case supplied

4. Mack’s Pillow-Soft Silicone Earplugs: Best earplugs for sleeping

Price: £6 | Buy now from Amazon

Nothing throws your life out of balance like not getting a good night’s rest – if you’re a light sleeper or share a bed with a snorer, you may not have had a full eight hours in a long time. Something to block out noise, then, such as these moldable silicone earplugs from Mack’s, can make all the difference.

These bestsellers offer 22dB of attenuation, more than enough to deal with snoring, as well as household and neighbourhood noise. What makes them great for sleepers is their softness and moldable shape. A snug, comfortable fit can be achieved with any ear shape, making it easier to settle in for the night where firmer earplugs might keep you up due to discomfort.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=22dB; Construction: Silicone; Sizes: One size fits all; Storage: Cardboard case

Buy now from Amazon

5. Honeywell Bilsom Clarity 656 Earplugs: The best earplugs for dulling workplace noise

Price: £5 | Buy now from Amazon

These earplugs have a slightly lower general attenuation than some alternatives, but that’s intentional. Construction workers, for example, need to be able to communicate and hear alarms, while protecting themselves from damaging long-term exposure. Sound technicians also favour them because they do what’s required and come with a handy cord that goes around your neck.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=22dB, L=17dB, M=19dB, H=24dB; Construction: Silicon/plastic; Sizes: Large and small; Storage: Case supplied

6. Isolate Earplugs: The best for gig-goers

Price: £25 | Buy now from DiGiCo

Isolate’s Aluminium earplugs offer a very high level of attenuation, especially at the higher end of the spectrum. They’re aimed at the regular gig-goer, as live concerts are where you’re most likely to be exposed to extremely loud noises.

These earplugs will let you catch the sweat flying off the guitarist’s hair without the hearing damage that would result from standing right in front of the speaker. Note, though, that they’re not recommended for sleeping, as the metal ends could push the plugs into your ear, and they’re not for construction work as they’re simply too effective – you wouldn’t be able to hear someone shouting a warning to you.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=36dB, L=31dB, M=33dB, H=35dB; Construction: Aluminum with foam earpieces; Sizes: 3; Storage: Drawstring pouch

Buy now from DiGiCo

7. Earplanes: The best for flights

Price: £4.60 | Buy now from Amazon

These earplugs are designed for air travellers, and aim to relieve the pain caused by changes in air pressure during takeoff and landing – although you can also use them as everyday earplugs as they reduce noise by 20dB.

Each plug has two elements: a ribbed silicone plug, which forms an airtight seal in your ear, and a ceramic pressure regulator slotted inside it. This allows a gentle equalisation of pressure on either side, avoiding the painful stretching of the eardrum as air pressure forces it one way or the other. Without it, you could potentially end up with a large imbalance in pressure between your ears and the outside world, resulting in a painful “pop” when you removed the plugs.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=20dB; Construction: Silicon/ceramic; Sizes: 1; Storage: Plastic case

8. BioEars: The best for swimming and general use

Price: £4.95 for 3 pairs | Buy now from Amazon

These soft, mouldable earplugs provide 20dB of attenuation and come in a small plastic box for storage. You can use them for general-purpose noise reduction, but they’re particularly good for swimmers seeking to avoid ear infections. Not only do they provide an airtight seal over your eardrum, which prevents bacteria or fungi from getting in, they also have added aloe vera, which should kill off any nasties in the water around your ear.

Many users find they need to wear a swimming cap to keep them in, but that’s true for all plugs used when swimming – and for those who suffer from regular infections, it’s a price worth paying.

Key specs – Attenuation: SNR=22dB, L=17dB, M=19dB, H=26dB; Construction: Silicon; Sizes: 1; Storage: Plastic case

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