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Using ear plugs is among the easiest steps you can take to protect your ears from damaging noise. These small devices are inserted into the ear to block out disruptive or damaging sounds. Shopping for ear plugs can be confusing, as there are a large variety of styles available, but with patience and a little bit of know-how you can find the plug for you.

Start by assessing the amount of noise dampening you require. Ear plugs are labelled with a noise reduction rating (NRR) to indicate how much noise they are able to block. Better quality ear plugs will have NRR’s between 21 and 33. Think about where you plan to use your ear plugs. If you need something to block out the noise of traffic or construction work while studying or working, a lower NRR plug will likely be sufficient. In contrast, you will need ear plugs with a higher NRR rating if your profession consistently puts you near loud equipment or music.

Next, take some time to consider the composition of the plugs you are considering. Foam ear plugs are made from a type of memory foam that is inserted into the ear canal. Foam ear plugs compress as they are pressed into the ear and expand slightly when released to plug the ear canal. In contrast, you can use silicone plugs to mold a perfectly-fitted barrier around the outside of your ear. Both types of plugs are disposable.

Lastly, evaluate whether you’d be better served with non-disposable, custom ear plugs. You can get away with using a simple silicone or foam plug in many situations, but there are specific plugs made for certain environments. If you are a musician who is constantly exposed to loud music, you may want to look into custom-made, non-disposable earplugs. Musician plugs are custom fitted and designed to allow the artist to hear themselves while blocking out harmful noise around them.

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. Try out these plugs with your head tilted to the side. This simulates the changes that take place in your ear canal while lying down, helping you determine whether the plugs will be comfortable while you are sleeping.

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