The Best Earplugs for Travel

Stacey Ebert

Traveling is noisy. From that over the wing seat on your flight, with jet engine roaring, to the crowd on the subway, the paper thin walls in your budget hotel, or the loud music at the festival you’ve traveled to see, it can get loud. In order to keep your ears safe and healthy for years to come, we’ve got to protect them from endless noise, constant pressure changes, and unnecessary pain.

Whether you’re into researching the details to buy a luxury pair, or grabbing the cheap kind off the rack at an airport kiosk – there’s an earplug out there waiting for you and your ear canals.

I’ve always been that flyer whose ears hurt. As a little kid I’d be the one screaming on the flight with warm compresses on my ears for the entire descent. Today, I’m the flyer with Earplanes, mints, and gum within reach for the entire duration of the flight

Who Wears Earplugs?

Are you traveling on the subway and want to avoid all of the constant conversation? Do you love listening to your festival and concert tunes nice and loud? Do those constant noises of life outside interrupt your sleep patterns? Are you one of the millions whose ears hurt with the change in pressure on planes? Whether for business or pleasure – at one time or another, most of us could benefit from some sort of earplug

Earplugs are for travelers who:

  • Have trouble sleeping at night
  • Have partners that snore loudly
  • Have ears hurt while flying
  • Attend music festivals, concerts and loud sporting events

How to Choose Earplugs for Travel

When faced with a new purchase – there’s almost always more than one option. We can hit the Internet, find a magazine, read a review, ask a friend, grab that impulse buy or wing it and when desperation kicks in shell out the $2 for the inflight earplugs and hope for the best.

When searching for your next pair of earplugs, take note of your needs, likes, comfort, budget, esthetic preferences, and where you’ll use them most. There are plenty of types of earplugs to consider – which one works for you depends on your unique ears.

Types of Earplugs:

  • Disposable: These can be moldable, foam, or flanged
  • Foam: Often made from memory foam, twist foam to insert 
  • Flanged: Made from silicone or light plastic, these may include filters for noise reduction 
  • Moldable: made often of wax and come in a plastic case; often used for swimming and great for hard to fit ears

Best Airplane Earplugs

With travel comes great adventure and often a little bit of agita. Flying means constant pressure changes, hostels and co-working spaces are full of constant noise, and the walls of most hotel rooms are paper thin. Since many of these ear plugs won’t break the bank, perhaps grab a pair for the pressure and a separate pair to manage noise when sleeping. Your ears will thank you.

What to Look for in Earplugs for Flying

Filtered earplugs These are the ones that manage to equalize the pressure in your eardrum and limit the screaming ear pain that many travelers deal with while flying.

Check sizing – Earplugs should fit snugly without pain; if they’re too big the depressurizing mechanism will not work

Material Choose a material that doesn’t cause any pain or irritation, (hypoallergenic silicone is good for most travelers).

Comfort Since these could be in your ears for long haul flights, be sure they fit, and that they won’t fall out and get lost.

Quality Whether you’re buying the disposable kind that come a bunch to a pack or one special pair, be sure they’ll meet your needs for the trip.

Earplanes ($14)

The Strategist calls them the ‘doctor’s favorite.’ Although these are designed to help equalize the pressure in the ear canal due to the changes in cabin pressure, they also come with four levels of noise reduction. These babies are both hypoallergenic and latex-free. 

I love my Earplanes. I’ve bought them at local pharmacies, travel stores, and in airports. They’ve seen me through hundreds of flights and manage the pressure and the noise quite well. Grab a pair online, at the airport or at your local pharmacy.

Luiswell Ear Plugs ($12.95)

 Made of super soft silicone, these earplugs are washable and reusable. They come with a carrying case to keep them clean. One reviewer who regularly suffers from ear pain while flying had this to say:

“I purchased these before a trip and put them in before the plane took off and removed after the plane landed. For the first time in my life there was no pain. None. I almost cried because of that alone! “

Alpine FlyFit Earplugs ($17.50)

Easily acclimatize your eustachian tube and minimize  pressure shifts throughout flight. This non-silicone, thermoplastic material device help to filter the pressure while still allowing you to hear the conversation you’re having. 

Flents Flitemate Pressure Reducing Ear Plugs ($7.53) 

Made of a soft rubber material that compresses easily for insertion, lots of people like these. The one downside is that they cause some discomfort for some people if worn for extended periods of time. 

Brianna had this to say:

“I had a bad past experience when I was flying. My ears didn’t regulate the pressure at all and the pain was a solid 10/10. Fearful that would happen again, I decided to try these out. They worked amazing. No pressure discomfort whatsoever.”

Pluggerz Uni-Fit Travel ($15)

Our editor, Jenn, picked these up at an airport kiosk on her way to Africa and never looked back. Providing pressure relief while flying, but enough noise reduction to allow for sleep, they are a great little pair of universal travel earplugs.

She even slept through lions roaring in the dark on the Serengeti. 

They come with a compact case to keep them together and clean.

Best Earplugs for Sleeping

Sleep earplugs are different than other earplugs. Since the wearer plans to have them in for many consecutive hours, will put pillow pressure on them, and wear them for many nights on end, comfort is king. Look for ones made out of a pliable, soft material to eliminate nightly ear irritation. 

Choices for sleep earplugs

  • Custom – Made by ear-mold impressions
  • Disposable-  Often made from soft foam or wax
  • Moldable – Often made from silicone or wax
  • Durable reusable – Often made from a soft silicone or light plastic material

Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Putty Earplugs ($3.49)

Mack’s are supposed to be the most comfortable for sleeping. They easily mold to your ear shape with a better seal than the custom molded ones. These are doctor recommended for both sleeping and swimming. Whether you’re looking for help with ear pressure while flying, or just trying to sleep in a hotel with paper thin walls, these are a solid choice, particularly for the price!

Bose Noise Masking Sleepbuds ($250)

Need an earplug with an alarm system built in? These pricey sleepbuds come with tracks of ambient noise preloaded for you, hold up to 16 hours of charge, and work with a sleep app to provide a wake up alarm. If you’ve got the budget to invest in these, Bose rarely disappoint.

Ohropax Reusable Wax/Cotton Ear Plugs ($11)

These reusable earplugs are a fan fave for small ears – you can make them fit any size or shape ear. Made of a unique combo of cotton soaked in Vaseline and waxes, these are a tried and true German earplug that have been on the market for over a hundred years. Try them.

Eargasm High Fidelity ($35)

Eargasm plugs are made of soft silicone so they won’t hurt over extended use. And they are flanged, without a stem so they don’t push into the ear canal while you’re sleeping. 

These come in two sizes per package, so they will fit everyone, which is great news for those with smaller ears. A cool keychain case is included, so they never get lost.

Mack’s Slim Fit Foam Earplugs ($3)

These earplugs are the top choice on Wirecutter because, “They fit a wide variety of ears and are notably effective in reducing overall noise.”

Made out of foam they work as a one stop shop for earplugs and fit most people. If foam works for your ear canals, check these out.

Best Earplugs for Music Festivals and Concerts

Remember those photos of Michael Phelps’ little one sporting his safety ear coverings at the last Olympics? Well, just because we are grown up doesn’t mean we don’t still need some ear protection. Whether you take in a Nascar race after a conference, write from inside a tent at Coachella, shoot the videos at South by Southwest like it’s your job, or can’t wait to spend another New Year’s Eve with Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden – your ears need protecting, too.

What’s the Deal With Noise Levels?

According to those in the know, the magic decibel number is 85. Once sound jumps above 85 decibels, we run into territory for potential noise-induced hearing loss.

When we’re exposed over that 85 decibel threshold for a continued duration of time, our hearing safety is at risk.

Earplugs for Music Festivals and Concerts:

  • Custom – Noise plugs, through a healthcare professional who takes an impression for a perfect fit
  • Earmuffs – Especially for those who need extra protection or don’t like the way earplugs feel
  • Reusable – Corded or non-corded and often made of a silicone material
  • Disposable – Often made from foam

For musicians and those who hang at music festivals, a few more considerations. Look for the term ‘high fidelity’ when purchasing your own non-custom earplugs. And for the tech-friendly crowd there are electronic ones. These earplugs can adapt to shifting sound levels to allow low level sounds (like a friend talking to you) through while still protecting you when you’re getting your groove on while rocking out to the band.

Who Wears Earplugs for Noise Reduction?

  • Those who attend loud sporting events
  • Those who attend concerts or music festivals
  • Those who visit loud nightclubs or bars
  • People who work with loud machinery

Moldex-Pura Fit ($11.24 – box of 50 pr)

Moldex are a great choice if you’re going with a group, or providing earplugs for an event or festival, and need a budget friendly option that are not reusable. Request a free sample through their website to give them a try before you buy. These disposable foam earplugs are sold in eco-friendly packaging, are easily moldable for most ear canals, and come in a box of fifty pair!

DownBeats High Fidelity EarPlugs ($10)

Original DownBeats high-fidelity sound filters deliver a pristine, balanced sonic experience without the painful highs and lows, distracting background noise or sonic hangover later. 

These high fidelity, silicone flanged earplugs filters volume while providing clarity of sound. They come with a convenient case that can clip to your bag or belt.

Etymotic Research ER20 ETY-Plugs Hearing Protection Earplugs  ($11.41)

ETY-Plugs are the world’s highest fidelity non-custom earplugs. They reduce most noise to safe levels while preserving the clarity of speech and the richness of music. They use a proprietary tuned resonator and acoustic resistor to replicate the natural response of the ear canal. Sound is reproduced unchanged, as the ear would hear it, only quieter.

These super comfortable flanged ear plugs, provide excellent sound quality, as if it was your own personal volume control, with limited to no muffling effect

Eargasm High Fidelity ($35)

Remember these from above? They’re also great for concerts or music festivals.

Eargasm plugs are made of soft silicone so they won’t hurt over extended use. And they are flanged, without a stem so they don’t push into the ear canal while you’re sleeping. 

These come in two sizes per package, so they will fit everyone, which is great news for those with smaller ears. A cool keychain case is included, so they never get lost.

TL;DR

We wear protective gear when playing sports, pop our seatbelts on in the car and are taught to never run with scissors. Our ears deserve that same level of thought and protection. If your ears bother you in flight, if you’re craving deeper sleep, or if you’re a regular at music festivals and sporting events – invest in a good pair of earplugs

  • Disposable earplugs are available in most drug or corner stores
  • If you’re flying, invest in the pressure reducing earplugs, they are worth it
  • Check for comfort, material, durability and sizing
  • For a seriously high end experience, go for Bose Sleepbuds

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