The Best Ear Plugs for Sleeping


We spent a month testing our favorite ear plugs for effectiveness against everything from crying babies to dump trucks. The best ear plugs for sleeping are Mack’s – Pillow Soft silicone putty ear plugs, which form to your ear to give you a perfect seal without the fidgeting foam plugs require. If you use ear plugs every night and want to invest in a more sustainable solution, the Radians – Custom Molded Earplugs work very well if you make them carefully. And if you’re looking to block as much noise as you can, Moldex – Purafit foam ear plugs have the highest noise-reduction rating possible.

Our Top Choices

Most Comfortable


Mack's

Pillow Soft

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Most Secure


Radians

Custom Molded

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Best Noise Reduction


Moldex

Pura-Fit

See Price at Amazon

We spent a month testing our favorite ear plugs for effectiveness against everything from crying babies to dump trucks. The best ear plugs for sleeping are Mack’s – Pillow Soft silicone putty ear plugs, which form to your ear to give you a perfect seal without the fidgeting foam plugs require. If you use ear plugs every night and want to invest in a more sustainable solution, the Radians – Custom Molded Earplugs work very well if you make them carefully. And if you’re looking to block as much noise as you can, Moldex – Purafit foam ear plugs have the highest noise-reduction rating possible.

Our testers have been using ear plugs for decades while running air-powered tools, at concerts and on long motorcycle trips. We also have a review of ear plugs for general use and ear plugs for concerts

How we selected

We came back to this category after updating our selection of music-focused ear plugs and decided to reassess the best earplugs for sleeping in this separate post.

Next, we scoured online retailers for the best-rated designs in styles we already liked. Silicone putty and wax are still the most popular prescription for night-shift workers and other people who need to sleep when everyone around them is making noise. The moldable plugs we selected should last for a few weeks if your ears are clean, but they won’t last forever. Fortunately, the top brands are also some of the least expensive.

We added custom-molded ear plugs based on our tester’s experience with them, and of course, we had to include the superior noise-blocking of our favorite foam ear plugs. Again, this type is widely available and our top picks have some of the best customer feedback scores.

There are a few more good earplugs out there that can block noise almost as well as foam plugs with less hassle during the insertion process. In those cases, though, the stem that sticks out makes the ear plug a no-go for side sleepers. We also wrote off anything with a long, pointy tip, since in our experience these can sometimes tickle the inside of your ear canal.

Important features to consider

The best earplugs for sleeping

Noise reduction rating: The noise reduction rating (NRR) is a standardized test for ear plug performance and should be available for any ear plug worth buying. The test uses volunteers or a calibrated head-and-ear simulation dummy to assess how many decibels louder a standard set of tones have to be for subjects to hear them through ear plugs. The test averages out differences between test subjects, so your own results may vary, but it’s an unbiased way to compare ear plugs.

Comfort: Pointy ear plugs or those made of thicker silicone can be less comfortable. Even an ear plug that’s good for occasional use at work can sometimes poke you when you’re wearing them all night. If you find that foam plugs create too much pressure, you can also look for a smaller size.

Disposable vs. re-usable materials: The softest and most comfortable materials you can use in ear plugs will eventually get dirty or start falling apart. Silicone ear plugs with a universal-fit design are an option for some, but usually they require a long stem or a string to get them out of your ears. That makes them unsuitable for use while sleeping. The exception is a custom-molded solution like the Radians kit.

Insertion depth and occlusion effect: The occlusion effect is what happens when you seal off the outer ear: Low-frequency sound pressure that normally escapes is trapped and resonates in the middle-ear. Since you’re not talking while you’re trying to sleep, this isn’t a big problem, but ear plugs that insert deeper (like foam plugs or custom plugs) can be less prone to this annoyance.

Easy insertion procedure: If you can’t get an ear plug to seal your ear canal, you won’t block the noise. Each design is slightly different when it comes to getting the best fit, but the main thing to remember is that if you pull on your earlobe (up or down) while inserting it will help you get a better fit.

1

Mack's - Pillow Soft

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For a simple ear plug that doesn’t have a huge learning curve, Mack’s Pillow Soft ear plugs are hard to beat. You just rub a lump of this semi-soft silicone putty between your hands to warm it up and make a little ball, then press it firmly into your ear until it seals the opening completely. Rub your fingers together beside your ear so you can hear if they’re working.

The cost when we purchased these was just over 50 cents per pair, and this putty stayed clean and pliable for a lot longer than we expected. Silicone also isn’t quite as sticky as wax on a hot night. The noise reduction is good if you get the putty to form a tight seal, and they’re far and away the most comfortable ear plugs we’ve tried.

Pros

  • Easy to use: just roll into a ball and press it into your ears
  • Enough noise reduction for most day-sleepers
  • Won’t make sounds from rubbing against your pillow
  • Also good for swimming

Cons

  • Eventually gets dirty
  • Could potentially fall out and get stuck in your hair
  • Not enough noise reduction against loud roommates

2

Radians - Custom Molded

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If you’ve ever wanted a pair of ear plugs that fits perfectly and lasts for a year or more, they’re not actually difficult or expensive to get. The Radians – Custom Molded Earplugs kit lets you make a rubbery silicone impression of your middle and outer ear, very similar to a custom-molded ear plug from an audiologist.

To be perfectly fair to the professionals, making custom ear plugs isn’t fool-proof. There’s an art to getting the putty deep enough and keeping the right shape while you also mold the outer ear shape before the silicone sets. Our tester has made four pairs over the last 10 years, and he feels the custom-molded shape is the most secure kind of ear plug. The one drawback is that these plugs aren’t always comfortable if you wear them for extended periods and if something like a pillow (or helmet) presses against your ear.Read more…

Our testers were happy with the ear plugs they got on the first try, but if you want the best seal possible you may want to buy a second kit as a backup. After we tried it a few times we found It also helped to pre-shape the putty a bit before pressing it into the ear. Chilling the silicone in the fridge also gave us a bit more time to work with it. Also, if you wait until everything is set and carve away the excess putty rather than trying to mold it, you’ll have less to worry about while the silicone is setting up.

Pros

  • With a little bit of planning, the fit is perfect
  • Re-usable for a year or more
  • Excellent noise reduction when they fit well
  • Insertion is easy

Cons

  • Some people will be better off paying an audiologist to do this
  • Getting the perfect shape can take a few tries
  • Can cause soreness after wearing all night
  • Throw these away at the first sign of cracks

3

Moldex - Pura-Fit

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If you’re up against an especially loud snorer or screaming kids, Moldex – Pura-Fit foam ear plugs are the best choice. These scored the highest in our noise tests and in some cases, outperformed other plugs with higher official NRR ratings.

The Moldex plugs are long and tapered, and when tightly rolled, they’ll fit almost any size ears to seal off outside noise. We’ve found that we need to slide them in quickly to get past the first bend of the ear canal (a tiny dab of coconut oil can help if your ears are dry) and hold them in place until they expand. After thirty seconds or so you’ll hear the air being pushed out and know they’re in place.Read more…

Our testers have used similar ear plugs from many brands over the years, and they all worked fairly well if they could be inserted deep enough. The Moldex plugs work well so long as you dispose of them when they get dirty, and they’re comfortable enough for all-day and all-night wearing if that’s what you need.

Pros

  • Expanding foam plugs offer maximum noise reduction
  • This shape and foam performed slightly better than other types in our tests
  • Just over 50 cents per pair, or for even less if you want 200 pairs

Cons

  • Getting a perfect seal takes practice
  • Need to roll, insert, and wait every time you put these in
  • Not as comfortable as putty or wax

4

Ohropax - Classic

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If you prefer a more natural alternative to the Mack’s silicone putty, Ohropax – Wax and Cotton Ear Plugs have been around since 1907. These plugs come packed in a handy travel-size tin, with cotton wrapping to keep them clean until you need them.

Wax plugs get a tiny bit firmer than the silicone putty when they’re cold, and there’s cotton mixed in to give them some structure. That’s both a plus and a minus: They take a bit more warming up, and they get more sticky in hot weather, but they block sound just a little bit better.Read more…

We didn’t have either the silicone or wax plugs fall out of our ears in the middle of the night, but it’s a real possibility. Those with silk bed sheets will probably want to look elsewhere. We like the silicone putty better overall, but if you want to keep a set of earplugs on hand for travelling, the extra tiny case is a definite bonus.


5

Howard Leight - MAX

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If you find that the Moldex – Purafit ear plugs are a bit too narrow to seal your outer ear, the Howard Leight – MAX ear plugs are a hair thicker and flare out at the ends. This shape gives some foam plugs a 1 dB advantage in the official noise reduction rating, but your results will vary depending on how well you get them to fit.

The Howard Leight plugs are a little bit more expensive than the Moldex, but they have a smooth coating on the outside that might keep them cleaner for longer. We’d suggest trying the Moldex first, then try a thicker set of plugs if you don’t like the fit.


Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.

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