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Airplane Earplugs - How They Work, Should You Use Them?

Earache while flying and at high altitudes, and while on board, is most probably caused by barotrauma (or “airplane ear”).

When air pressure changes quickly (e.g. when getting into or out of an airplane), the difference between air pressure inside and outside the eardrum can reach several hundred mmHg (millimeters of mercury). This causes the eardrum to stretch and hurt.

To understand why barotrauma happens and how to prevent it, read this article

To find out if earplugs could be helpful to you, again, read this article!

Best Earplugs For Planes.

Airplanes are a great way to travel, as it will get you to your destination many times faster than is possible than other methods. Prices also work out far cheaper when you fly, than if you take some other method of travel.

Airplane ear plugs are a necessity for some people, and they are just nice to have for others. 

So there are three types of earplugs use when flying:

  • Discomfort in the ears when the plane is taking off / landing.
  • Listen to their own music/movies.
  • Help them sleep, as jets are not the quietest of places.

This gives us three different ear plug.

  • Pressure reducing ear plugs (will not block all the sound).
  • Ear plugs to block sound (not great at reducing the pressure in the ear).
  • Noise Cancelling Earplugs (not great at reducing the pressure in the ear).

Why Do We Need Flight Earplugs?

Some people, when flying, experience some discomfort when the plane changes altitudes. This is due to pressure differences in the inner and outer ears. This article will cover ways to overcome this problem.

Also, most of us will travel in “Cattle Class,” i.e. not in Business or First Class. This can be cramped (if you are tall) and noisy.

Sorry, there’s not much we can recommend for you if you need more space where you are sitting. But if you want to block out the sound of the other passengers, to block out the noise of that screaming baby, or just to hear the inflight movie or music better, then I have some great recommendations!

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Earplugs For Flying Pressure.

Earplugs for airplane pressure can help people who suffer from ‘airplane ear’, or barotrauma, to give it its actual name. The good news is that permanently damaged to the ear is extremely rare. But short painful earaches are quite frequent when taking off and landing.

Pressure-regulating earplugs are available. These are designed to be worn during flights. They can be effective against ear pain in many people who use them.

They make the pressure on both sides of the eardrum equalize at approximately the same time. This will stop the drum stretching and so reducing the discomfort.

Best Earplugs For Sleeping On A Plane.

The best airplane ear plugs, if you want to sleep, really need to have the same selection criteria as any other sleeping earplugs. However, when you are trying to sleep in the seat of an airplane, then sleeping on your side is not really possible. So that is one less thing to concern yourself with.

When sleeping on an aircraft, you do not really have to worry too much about waking up in time for work, or hearing noises in your house. You just want it to be as quiet as possible. There are a lot of other people around, including staff, and when it is time to land, or for a meal, they will wake you.

So the primary concern when flying and sleeping is going to be the following :

  • Quiet as possible.
  • Comfortable.

As mentioned earlier, plane travel tends to be noisy and a little uncomfortable, so you do not want to be adding to it. It is recognized that moldable wax earplugs are the most comfortable for sleeping. The heat from your body melts the wax slightly, so they fit perfectly.

Because they are so well fitted and do not have any holes, they block out nearly all the sound. This is excellent for sleeping, but you cannot have a conversation with them in.

More detailed articles can be found below. The information is not totally relevant to airplane ear plugs, as these articles assume you will be lying in a bed, rather than sitting up!

Best Earplugs for Side Sleepers 

Woman Listening0

Best Noise-Canceling Headphones For Flying.

The best earplugs for flying if you want to hear the movie easier, or listen to music are noise-canceling headphones. These, of course, are great for a lot of other situations, when you want to listen to something in a noisy environment. E.g. Work, Gym, Home, Jogging, Commuting, etc.

These work by actively canceling out the outside noise, rather than blocking it. Each ear plug has a microphone which picks up the outside noise. Then it creates the exact opposite sound, that is 180 degrees out of phase with outside sounds and plays them. The two sound waves then cancel each other out.

You do not have to understand this… Just believe me; it works. When I first got my noise-canceling earbuds, I spent 10 minutes with them not plugged into anything, just turning them on and off again. I was amazed that the outside sound almost vanished as they were turned on; it seemed like some sort of magic!

Anyway, these earplugs are great, and because they block out a lot of the outside noise. You can hear what you want to listen to without having the volume too loud, which is great for your ears, especially if you have ear problems such as I do.

Ear Pain When Flying–Why Does It Happen.

Airplane ear pressure causes the discomfort, or sometimes pain, when people fly. The ear is composed of multiple sections, and when you fly, the pressure on the eardrum can be different in the inner and outer ear. This causes the pain.

The part of the ear that you can see is open to the world, and any pressure changes are immediate. The other side of the eardrum is connected to the outside world through a tube that runs from the ear to the back of the nose and throat. This is the Eustachian tube, and pressure changes can take longer to travel through this.

If you have cold, allergies, or anything that can cause blockages here, it may increase your chances of experiencing discomfort. Airplane ear plugs can reduce this, but there are other things you can do to equalize the pressure and stop any discomfort. These include.

Drink Water.

If you keep hydrated–drink lots of water and other fluids (preferably not caffeinated). When hydrated, there is less chance that your nose and nasal passages will become dry and therefore blocked. A cheap and easy thing to do on all flights.

If you are at the airport and have no blockages, still drink plenty. Since the smoking ban on flights, the air quality has DROPPED significantly as the air gets recycled more. This air is dry and not fresh, this can cause your nose to dry out leading to blockages.

Take Pain Killers.

If you have a blocked nose, have sensitive ears, or have experienced ear discomfort when in a plane before, then pain killers may help. I am sure that you have taken Paracetamol, Ibuprofen or aspirin before. Whatever your preferred pain killer is, you can use that to reduce the discomfort.

Read the instructions on the bottle, or consult a doctor if you are unsure of how to use this type of pill.

Yawn A Lot.

When you yawn, it helps to equalize the pressure on the inner ear, making it similar to what the outer ear is experiencing. Forcing yourself to yawn should help with the problem. Yawning is free, and the effects are also immediate.

Suck A Hard Sweet Or Chew Gum.

This works similarly to yawning above. The sucking action causes the air pressure to equalize. A fast and quick way to get relief from flight ear pain. But remember to take something to suck with you!

Be Awake When Taking-Off And Descending.

It may seem to be a good idea to be asleep for as much of the flight as possible, but merely being awake can reduce the discomfort as well. When sleeping, we breathe differently, which does not help different pressures in the ear. Also, you can’t chew gum or yawn when you are sleeping.

Why Is It Hard To Hear On A Plane?

It’s because of the different pressures inside and outside of the plane. In order to be safe, a pilot must fly at a set pressure level for his passengers.

However, this creates the problem that people on planes can’t hear themselves talk! So here are some helpful tips for hearing properly when flying- try using earplugs when you fly! A little investment now can help ensure you enjoy your flight.

These plugs will help with your pressure problems by ensuring that there is not too much or not enough air reaching your ears.

Does Flying Affect Vertigo?

For some people, this is a problem. They often suffer from vertigo, which is the body’s way of protecting itself from getting motion sickness.

For others, this feeling affects their balance and they have difficulty walking. However, using earplugs to improve hearing can help with your balance by making it easier to hear your surroundings!

This can prevent you from being thrown off balance and struggling with vertigo while flying!

Reduce Engine Noise With These Plugs:

The loud droning sound of an airplane engine is something that makes many people cringe. It is so loud that you can even feel it in your body. This sound of a plane engine leads to many problems during a flight for many people. The vibration can create a feeling of nausea and dizziness for some people, so earplugs can reduce both the noise and vibration.


Conclusion–Best Earplugs For Flying.

There are many things that you can do to help you if experiencing pain when flying. However, once you are on that flight, if you have any problems then you can no longer buy some plugs.

They are not expensive and are reusable, so why not buy them now and take them every time you fly?


Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

Best Ear Plugs

The following are the best earplugs  (They go from low price to high price.)

Original Adult EarPlanes by Cirrus Healthcare Earplugs Airplane Travel Ear Protection (1 Pair)
  • EarPlanes Relieve Ear Discomfort, Clogging, And Popping By Naturally Filtering and Regulating Air Pressure.
  • EarPlanes Are A Must Have For Your Next Trip: They Are Essential For Your Carry-On Bag!
  • EarPlanes Are Safe, Soft, And Disposable - Made From Soft Hypoallergenic Silicone.
  • EarPlanes Are Doctor Recommended, Tested By U.S. Navy Pilots, And Backed By The Good Housekeeping Seal!
  • Adult 1-Pair - One Pair Is Good For A Round Trip (2 Flights)
Mack’s Flightguard Airplane Pressure Relief Earplugs – 26dB NRR, 33dB SNR – Comfortable, Safe,...
  • RELIEVES EAR PRESSURE - The AERO FILTER technology helps regulate air pressure due to altitude changes. The safe, natural, drug-free flying solution to relieve ear popping and ear pressure pain and discomfort
  • EXTREME COMFORT – The ultra-soft silicone flanges flex to provide extreme comfort, while the firm, easy-grip stem allows for easy insertion and removal
  • IN-FLIGHT NOISE RELIEF – Relax, Flightguard reduces airplane engine and cabin noise with a High Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 26 decibels and a Single Number Rating (SNR) of 33 decibels (EU Standard)
  • LAB TESTED, FLIGHT TESTED AND FREQUENT FLYER APPROVED - Consumer and pressure chamber tested and proven to relieve air pressure discomfort, improve flight experience, reduce in-flight noise, be comfortable to wear, be easy to use and be preferred over competitor’s airplane ear plugs
  • #1 DOCTOR RECOMMENDED EARPLUG BRAND - Mack’s is the earplug brand most often recommended by Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors. 100% satisfaction guaranteed! Includes storage case
Eargasm Aviation Earplugs - Ear Pain Relief for Air Travel - Small Size (2 Pairs in Gift Box...
  • INSTANTLY REDUCE EAR PAIN from pressure changes during take off and landing. Our innovative membrane embedded inside the earplug slows the process of pressure change inside the ear canal and helps to prevent ear aches.
  • HELPS MINIMIZE noises associated with air travel such as engine, wind noise, and loud passengers by up to 20 dBs.
  • SMALLER SIZE to fit women, children, and those with smaller ear canals. Transparent color makes it nearly imperceptible to others.
  • 100% RESUABLE many times over! HYPOALLERGENIC SOFT SILICONE is non-toxic and comfortable for prolonged wear. Won’t cause itching or pressure pain. Ideal for domestic and international flights.
  • ERGONOMIC ALUMINUM CASE is over 35% shorter than competing brands for easy storage on your keychain. An anti-stick interior guarantees earplugs will always be easily removable. Waterproof rubber seal ensures their protection from moisture, dust and debris. Threading is uniquely placed on exterior of canister to prevent damage to earplugs when opening and closing.

Last update on 2023-11-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

Do Regular Earplugs Help When Flying?

We can never underplay the usefulness of earplugs to us, but we must know which earplug works for what and where. Flying brings discomfort to lots of people because of air pressure, so we really need earplugs.

It seems that regular earplugs can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with flying, such as pain and pressure. However, they may not be effective for everyone, and it is important to consult a physician if severe symptoms persist.

Is It Bad To Wear Earplugs?                         

Putting on earplugs is not in any way a bad idea, as it was primarily designed to add comfort for a human. Earplugs are of different makes for different situations. Know which one you need to use and get it. It can become bad to wear them when you get too used to it.

There are both pros and cons to wearing earplugs. They can help protect your ears from noise-induced hearing loss, but they can also cause problems like earwax build-up and muffled hearing. If you do decide to wear earplugs, be sure to use the right type and size for your ears, and remove them regularly to give your ears a break.

Will I Hear An Alarm With Earplugs?

Yes, you will still hear an alarm with earplugs in your ears. But these earplugs can block out the noise very well without muffling it too much. This means you won’t miss the alarm while protecting your ears!

Earplugs offer protection from noise, while still letting you hear what’s important.- Sleeping with ear plugs will not silence the sound of an alarm clock.- Ear plugs do not stop you from hearing very loud noises like thunder.


If you require more information, please check these references

Molded Communication Earplugs in Military Aviation , article, “www.ingentaconnect.com”, retrieved on, Sun 03-May-2020

Cockpit Noise Intensity: Three Aerial Application (Crop-Dusting) Aircraft , article,“pubs.asha.org”, retrieved on, Sun 03-May-2020

the effects of earplugs on Passenger speech reception in rotaty-wing aircraft , article,“books.google.co.uk”, retrieved on, Sun 03-May-2020


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Nick Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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