Ear Plugs: What is Available To Buy?

Posted by Attune Hearing on November 30th, 2020

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all ear plug that can do it all. So, what is available and how do you know you’re using the right ear plugs?

Ready-Fit versus Custom EarplugsThere are two main categories that ear plugs fall into, ready-fit plugs sold over the counter or custom earplugs. Ready-fit plugs are a standard one-size fits all or may come various sizes – usually available from pharmacies or online. Custom ear plugs are custom made to fit your ears, so it is best to be fitted by a hearing professional. An impression or mould of the ear needs to be obtained which is a delicate process that should only be carried out by a trained professional. While custom ears plugs are costlier, ranging from -0 for a pair, they are more durable, and custom made to ensure you are receiving proper protection with the best comfort.


When to use earplugs?

Noise plugs (industrial) – For those who work in construction or around heavy machinery for prolonged periods of time it is essential that hearing protection is a part of your everyday uniform. Prolonged exposure and even sudden loud sounds will have a lasting, long-term effect on your hearing. Even if you are using power tools for a few seconds – these few seconds of noise exposure cumulate and over time will damage your hearing. Foam plugs are effective only when used properly. If you find foam plugs uncomfortable, custom ear plugs will ensure maximum comfort so you are able to wear them all day. Custom earplugs will also provide the highest level of noise protection (up to 40dB!). Doubling up on hearing protection is more than welcome, wearing earplugs with earmuffs on top.

Noise plugs (general) - If your partner snores and you’ve just about had enough, ear plugs may be able to assist. Ready-fit ear plugs should suffice for this purpose however if you find they keep falling out during sleep a custom pair may be helpful to keep the plugs in and snoring out. Ready-fit plugs can also be helpful when on aeroplanes or in situations where you need to concentrate in a noisy area and just need a minor reduction of surrounding sounds.

Musician ear plugs – Your ears are extremely important for music! If you play in a band, love your heavy metal music or are an avid concertgoer, loud instruments and music in such close proximity will cause permanent damage to your hearing. Any deterioration in hearing can cause sounds to sound different or distorted. Retaining your normal hearing should be a priority and this is best achieved through protecting your hearing and wearing hearing protection. Maximum noise reduction is not always optimal as this can affect the quality of music thus, over the counter ear plugs are not ideal as they offer a flat attenuation of sound. Ear plugs made specifically for musicians allow different levels of attenuation allowing reduction of sounds evenly to maintain clear and natural sound. Musician earplugs can be sold in standard sizes however for the best retention and attenuation a custom-fitted earplug would be best.

Swimming ear plugs – If you are an avid swimmer or surfer and prone to getting surfers/swimmers ear or ear infections you should strongly consider custom ear plugs. Over the counter plugs just don’t cut it as even a little bit of water can get through the nooks and crannies if not inserted properly. Custom swimming plugs will allow the best fit and seal to keep water out. They are made from a strong durable soft acrylic which will allow prolonged life span and use. If over the counter plugs are your only option make sure they are made from a strong, water-resistant material; foam plugs are a no go for this situation!


What can I customise?

Shape - Some earplugs sit deep in the ears while others fill-up the whole outer portion of the ear. Ready-fit earplugs come in assorted shapes to help with retention to keep the earplugs in securely. Custom earplugs are made to fit the shape of your ears seamlessly as they are made based off a mould of your ears.

Size - Depending on the manufacturer, ready-fit plugs can offer only one size while others offer larger variety. It is important to find an earplug that fits properly and snug especially when using for hearing protection as sound only needs a hole the size of a pin to travel through! The size of custom earplugs will depend on the shape and size of your ears.

Material: Ready fit earplugs are generally made of a soft, pliable material like foam so that it is easily manipulated to fit your ears. Custom earplugs are typically made from a soft acrylic, but this is customisable depending on the manufacturer. If you are allergic to ready-fit materials or acrylic you can opt for silicones, latex or poly-vinyl and request for hypoallergenic coatings to reduce irritation.

Venting: For some earplugs – like for divers, the earplugs cannot block up the ears completely as they require ventilation to equalise – custom plugs allow customisable venting. If you feel uncomfortable with the ears completely blocked up and like to use them for sleeping or general noise reduction, having a vent through the plug will allow air to flow through and aerate the ears.

Attenuation: Ready fit plugs can offer up to 25dB of attenuation but only when used correctly. With custom ear plugs you can customise how much noise the plugs can reduce. This will depend on your purpose for using the plugs.

Caring for your ear plugs Most ready-fit ear plugs should be durable enough to used multiple times however, if there is a tear or the material is not as pliable as it was then it’s best to use a new pair. Custom ear moulds will last years but they still get a bit of wear and tear and it is possible for the shape and size of your ear canals to change. If the custom plugs are broken, chipped or falling out of the ears easily then it’s time to get some new moulds made. Be gentle when inserting and removing custom earplugs, especially if they are made of a softer material. Wipe them down with warm, soapy water or an alcohol swab but make sure they are completely dry before using them again.


Whether you are using ear plugs for noise protection, swimming, music or sleeping it’s important to consider the shape, size and material that is most suitable for your intended use. If you’re not sure what is best for you, reach out to your local Attune Hearing clinic for guidance. 

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Attune Hearing
Joined: July 9th, 2020
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