To preserve your hearing, begin with the fundamentals – earplugs. Ear plugs physically impede sound waves when inserted into the ear canal. Although they seem like a simple product, there are actually many different types of ear plugs on the market. Knowing the essential differences will allow you to pick the best ones.

The first thing to think about when shopping for ear plugs is the amount of noise reduction you need. Take a look at the noise reduction rating (NRR) on the box to find out how much sound it cancels out: better quality plugs have a rating between 21 and 33. Think about where you plan to use your ear plugs. For example, you will find that plugs with a lower NRR will be sufficient if you plan to use them to block out traffic noise while working or studying. However if you spend a lot of time around fairly loud noises you’ll need a higher NRR as would be the case for heavy equipment operators or musicians.

The composition of your ear plugs is another important factor to consider. The most basic material is foam. These plugs are compressed as they are inserted, then expand to plug the ear. Alternatively, silicone plugs are molded over the outside of the ear canal, allowing you to create a plug that fits your ear perfectly. Both foam and silicone ear plugs need to be replaced periodically.

Your final step is to consider why you are shopping for plugs in the first place. You can get away with using a simple silicone or foam plug in many situations, but there are specific plugs made for certain environments. For example, musicians often have custom ear plugs molded for them because they spend so much time around loud music both practicing and performing. These plugs are carefully crafted to fit your ear, allowing you to hear what you are playing while blocking out harmful sounds.

If you have a partner who snores, you may be shopping for earplugs to wear while you are sleeping. You can find ear plugs that are specifically designed to block out snoring without keeping you from hearing your fire alarm and alarm clock. When comparing ear plugs for sleeping, be sure to test them out with your head tilted sideways. This helps you figure out if they will be comfortable to wear while you are lying down.

With a little time and consideration you should not have any difficulties finding the earplugs that are right for you.