Excellent earplugs for everyday situations

Know what you’re squishing into your holes.

earplugs
These options can protect your eardrums from unnecessary damage.Claire Benoist

Standing too close to the speakers at a concert or heavy machinery at work can permanently damage your hearing. A solid set of plugs will protect your eardrums, but ensuring you have enough noise reduction is crucial. ­Consider these options—each blocks an increasing number of decibels—for everything from flying to wielding power tools.

1. Alpine

17 decibels

From crying babies to the drone of the engines, an airplane cabin is loud. ­Alpine’s FlyFit thermoplastic plugs ­include valve-like internal filters that absorb ambient noise and may help regulate pressure during ascent and descent. Fortunately, they’re not so powerful that you’ll miss announcements or the chance to finally order that soda.

2. Vibes

22 decibels

Noise above 105 dB can cause hearing loss within minutes, and live music can easily hit that mark. A metal filter ­inside Vibes lets in a safe amount of sound without skewing ­frequencies and ruining the clarity of the tunes. Polycarbonate tubes and washable ­medical-​​grade ­silicone tips make the buds easy to clean and extend their lifespan.

3. Decibullz

31 decibels

If you’re at a shooting range or working in an industrial setting, you’ll need protection that stays put. Submerge Decibullz (seen here in their unsculpted state) in boiling water for five minutes, wait 30 seconds, then mold them into your ears while the thermo­plastic is still pliable and toasty. The final product should fit chafe-free.

4. Mack’s

33 decibels

Mack’s earplugs are minimalistic orange nuggets of squishy, dense urethane foam that expand to fill any gap sound waves could sneak through. Their tight seal is ­secure enough to dull the ­cacophonies of a jackhammer on the street or a chainsaw in the backyard. Plus, at less than $1 per pair, they’re cheap enough to stash everywhere.


This story originally published in the Noise Winter 2019 issue of Popular Science.