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Wax Earplug Versus Disposable Earplugs - Which Is Best?

If you struggle with sleeping well, you need earplugs to help you sleep better.

A good night's rest is essential for a healthy life. But sleep deprivation is commonplace. Here are some tips to help you choose the best earplugs.

Earplugs come in many shapes and sizes. Some are reusable while others are disposable. The wax ones come in a variety of colors and types, too.

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.

How to compare wax Earplugs to disposable

Good sleep is crucial for staying healthy. Getting a decent night's slumber ordinarily will not only boost productivity at work but also improve mental and physical health, help creativity, boost the immune system, and encourage your brain and heart to function the way they should.

Sleep deprivation can cause prematurely aged skin, lower libido, and higher susceptibility to various illnesses. The list goes on.

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A simple little thing called an earplug can make a major difference in your sleep quality.

For most people, these little buds are the sole thing that reduces noise pollution during the night. Earplugs are incredible for blocking out noise like loud snoring partners or for the warmer months when your windows are probably open.

They are not expensive, and they’re pretty easy to use – in short, if you pick the right earplugs, you can dramatically improve your sleep quality.

There are three types of earplugs for sleeping:

  • Wax earplugs

    Were invented in 1907 and virtually unchanged to this day. This type of earplug is a wax cylinder that you warm in your hands and mold into a cone prior to placing it in the ear. The advantages are that you can shape them to fit, and because they're waterproof, they can serve you as swimming earplugs too.

  • Silicone

     Soft silicone plugs are comfortable, light, and reusable (just wash them in cold water). Some people find them less effective at filtering out noise than other types, but it’s all up to the individual. They usually are more expensive.

    Wax and moldable silicone earplugs don’t require to be inserted into the ear to work well: they only seal the entrance. Actually, never insert them into your ear canal.

  • Foam

    Definitely the cheapest option, foam earplugs are soft and hence comfortable for sleeping with. Foam earplugs are the most popular earplugs today. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. On average, they are also the most effective in blocking noise. However, since they are made of porous material, they're fertile breeding grown for bacteria, so you have to replace them regularly. Foam earplugs are not for everyone.

Certain people just can’t tolerate even the softest foam in their ear for prolonged periods. Ear pressure, itching, and outright ear pain keep them from falling asleep, so they unwillingly accept the noise. Even if you are an everyday user of foam earplugs with no significant issues, you might still want to give your ears rest from time to time without previous noise-blocking at night or when you are studying or working.

To properly use them, foam earplugs need to be inserted deep into the ear canal.

Application and Comfort

At body temperature, wax and silicone putty earplugs are moldable and can be made to entirely seal the ear canal entrance.

In order to apply them, mold them with your hands to warm them up, form them into a ball, and then mildly press them against your ear opening—flattening the ball.

To release ensnared air from the ear, pull your ear up with your thumb, staying on the flattened earplug.

You should repeat this last step once or twice, possibly twenty minutes after the first application, for better seal and comfort.

How effective are wax and silicone earplugs at reducing noise in comparison to foam?

The silicone and wax earplugs are almost virtually identical in their ability to reduce noise.

They have an NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) of 22-23 dB, blocking a substantial amount of noise but considerably less than adequately inserted foam earplugs (NRR 28-33 dB)

They are a pretty good option for sleep and moderate noise environments.

Notably, at frequencies below 2000 Hz, foam earplugs reduce noise much better.

This is important if you want to clog loud snoring, traffic rumble, generator or train engine noise, and different other noises with substantial amounts of low-frequency noise.

If you want to block speech noise (500-4000 Hz), silicone earplugs are the better option.

As mentioned before, for foam earplugs to reach their superior noise reduction, you need to insert them pretty deep into your ear canal.

If you insert them shallowly, foam earplugs low-frequency mitigation will not be a lot better, and maybe even worse than wax earplugs.

So, in case you find deeply inserted foam earplugs discomforting, wax and soft silicone earplugs are certainly an excellent alternative.

Which type of earplug?

The following infographic shows a list of the various noises when you are out and about. Any noise over 70-80db over a long period may cause damage to your hearing. A noise of over 120dB may cause immediate harm to your ears.

How to improve the effectiveness of wax and silicone earplugs?

You are limited to an NRR of 22-23 dB when using wax or silicone putty earplugs.

If you are using them during sleep, you can add white noise to significantly improve the effectiveness of the noise blocking of this type of earplug and fend off bothering noises. Some people find silicone earplugs paired with a white noise machine, a terrific combination.

Many types of earplugs don’t block noise evenly across all frequencies.  Before applying your earplugs, your environment might have been loud.

After fitting your earplugs, everything will become much quieter, but then specific frequencies will probably stand out and bother you. Also, your sense of hearing might become more receptive.

Choosing a white noise pitch that camouflages the sound frequencies where the earplugs are more susceptible allows you to counterbalance that weakness.

If chatter or office noises prevent you from concentrating on your work/studying, put in your earplugs to lessen the general noise level reaching your ears.

Then, if you have bone conduction headphones, you can use them to play the white noise to mask the people talking near you.

Final words

Foam earplugs are the benchmark if you need maximum noise reduction. For low-frequency noise, they are much more effective than moldable wax and silicone putty earplugs. Once you have found a pair that fits you and learned how to properly fold and insert them, they can also be quite comfortable.

Moldable wax and silicone earplugs provide significant noise reduction that is satisfactory for most people to fall and stay asleep and block every-day noise that might annoy or distract them.

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

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  • WATERPROOF EAR PROTECTION: Enjoy worry-free swimming or showers with our waterproof wax earplugs. Designed to protect your ears from water, they fit securely and comfortably, unlike rubber earplugs that can cause pressure and discomfort.
  • SNUG AND COMFORTABLE FIT: Our moldable earplugs are designed for easy use and a snug fit for both children and adults, including those with small ears. They sit flush with your ears, making them ideal for side sleepers, ensuring maximum comfort throughout the night.
  • EFFECTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION: Block out annoying noises with 32 dB of noise cancellation. Our earplugs provide optimal hearing protection, allowing you to focus, relax, and enjoy moments of tranquility in any environment.
3M 1100 Foam Ear Plugs, 200-Pair , Orange
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Last update on 2023-12-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

Which earplugs block the most noise?

Earplugs are used to reduce the noise so you don't end up damaging your hearing because of loud noise and so you can also sleep peacefully. There are three types of earplugs; wax, foam, and silicone earplugs. Silicone and wax earplugs provide almost the same level of noise reduction.

The NRR (noise reduction rate) of these earplugs is 22-23dB whereas the NRR of foam earplugs is 28-33dB. So foam earplugs block the most noise provided that you insert them properly, deep in the ear canal. But if you find this deep insertion discomforting, you can use wax or silicone earplugs.

Can earplugs cause permanent tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition in which you hear buzzing or other sounds even though there are no external sounds. Earplugs by themselves do not cause permanent tinnitus. However, if the earplugs are defective and can not properly protect your ears from loud noise, then this could lead to permanent tinnitus.

If there is an infection in the ears due to using dirty bacteria-laden earplugs, in this situation earplugs may make the tinnitus worse. If you use earplugs regularly, earplugs can cause wax buildup by pushing earwax back into your ears which can cause tinnitus but a temporary one.

Is there an alternative to earplugs?

If you use earplugs to sleep peacefully, the best alternative for earplugs is a white noise machine. The soothing noise produced by the machine masks and muffle the background noises. Besides that, earmuffs can also be an alternative to earplugs for noise reduction while sleeping.

They provide a higher NRR i.e is 31 and are light and portable however, it's challenging to wear them for a long time and especially while sleeping because they go over the head like headphones. Similarly, noise-canceling headphones can also be used, but again they won't be much more comfortable.


If you require more information, please check these references

Recent Developments in Personal Protective Clothing and Equipment: Recent Developments in Ear Protection , article, "journals.sagepub.com", retrieved on, Wed 28-October-2020

Relationship between comfort and attenuation measurements for two types of earplugs , article, "www.noiseandhealth.org", retrieved on, Wed 28-October-2020

The Study of Attenuation Levels and the Comfort of Earplugs , article, "www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov", retrieved on, Wed 28-October-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

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