Q) What is the most effective earplug for sleeping, in terms of noise blocking?
A) First, there is no other ear plug that comes up to the level of effectiveness of a foam ear plug. At 33 NRR, achievable only with a foam ear plug currently, there is effectively zero sound passing through the ear canal. What you continue to hear is around 5% of what you would hear with the open ear, and that sound is transmitted to the inner ear primarily via bone conduction through the head.
Q) How long will a pair of earplugs for sleeping last?
A) Foam ear plugs are meant to be replaced after every use, though some people report success with using them multiple times. Changing your foam sleeping plugs each night isn't a bad idea, and foam earplugs are very inexpensive, especially since you can easily get them by the box once you find a foam plug you really like. Reusable ear plugs can last much longer, but some have longer life spans than others. Cerumen, also known as earwax, is extremely corrosive. Vinyl compounds, which until around a decade ago, were the primary materials used to make custom ear plugs as well as universal fit reusable ear plugs, are known to last less than 6 months to one year on average, due to hardening and cracking that is the direct result of contact with the cerumen in the ear. The good news is that during the last decade, silicone compounds have almost entirely replaced vinyls in both custom made and universal fit ear plugs. Silicones seem to be vastly superior to vinyls, both in noise blocking and in durability when used in ear plugs. Reusable universal fit ear plugs seem to last for a few weeks to months, while we have heard of lab made custom ear plugs lasting for many years.
Q) Why do custom molded earplugs last longer than universal fit earplugs?
A) One explanation for why the universal fit models do not last as long may be due to less attention paid to maintenance by users who do not bother to clean them after each use since they are quite inexpensive, while custom ear plug users are far more diligent in cleaning their ear plugs since they can cost up to $200 a set. The other, and more likely reason for the different performance levels of these two classes of product, is that the form factor is far different. In universal fit ear plugs, there are virtually always some very thin elements such as flanges or lamellae that are designed to flex in order to fit a wide range of ear canal sizes and shapes, while the custom ear plug is a solid lump that has been custom configured to fit one specific ear, so there are no thin elements in the custom ear plug which are prone to mechanical failure.
Q) How long will custom molded earplugs for sleeping actually last?
A) A custom molded silicone ear plug is the longest-lasting solution for sleeping. With care I personally believe this product will easily last you for 20 years. We cannot know that yet, since the silicone ear plugs have not had enough history to be certain, but I have plugs that are more than 15 years old, and they are still perfectly fine. I do not use them frequently, but I do care for them properly, meaning cleaning and drying after each use before storing them away.
Q) How well do custom molded earplugs block noise, compared to foam earplugs?
A) Performance of a custom ear plug is not generally a knowable factor, but Westone claims an NRR 29 for their Style 40 noise plug. Given that the primary factor in performance is the depth of the canal portion, if you get deep impressions, so that your ear plugs can have a deep canal portion, you should get better performance than you would using foam ear plugs, even though the nominal NRR is less for custom ear plugs. The reason for this is that foam ear plugs are quite difficult to get properly inserted, and as a result, most of the time, users realize far less noise protection from their foam ear plugs than they are capable of, due to errors in insertion. Meanwhile, because custom ear plugs are made to fit each specific ear, they can only be inserted one way, and so they always fit properly, faithfully giving the full optimum level of performance.
Check out these choices and more for sleeping with sound on our Ear Plugs for Sleeping store page -- and don't hesitate to contact us with more questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. We love hearing from you!
Until next time, be safe and do the right thing.
Tom Bergman, Vice President
Ear Plug Superstore