What Are the Best Type of Earplugs for Sleeping?

Medically Reviewed on 5/12/2021
earplugs for sleep
Earplugs come in a wide variety of materials, shapes and fits

If you’re struggling with getting restful sleep, earplugs may be a good option for blocking unwanted sounds. While there are many different types of earplugs available in the market, you should be aware that some can reduce noise significantly whereas others are designed to only mask sounds while working or traveling.

Earplugs come in a wide variety of materials, shapes and fits. In order to find a pair that doesn’t cause discomfort or slip out while you’re sleeping, you may need to experiment with a few first.

Here are some things to consider when finding earplugs that work best for you.

Cylindrical low-tech foam earplugs 

These fit into ear canals of all shapes, but need to be fitted appropriately in your ears. Correct positioning is the most important when it comes to this type of earplug. Since foam is prone to build-up bacteria, you can use them only once.

If you are someone who sleeps on your side, look for the ones that are flattened on the sides, as this design will prevent them from falling out of your ear canals in your sleep

Bell-shaped foam earplugs

These may be more comfortable for people with wider ear canals, since the shape helps them to stay in place. 

Some products available in the market provide hearing protection too and are an excellent choice for people who work in areas where there are loud sounds, such as industrial zones. Like other foam earplugs, these are meant for one-time use.

Silicone putty earplugs

Unlike foam earplugs, these do not plug into the ear canal and instead just cover the outer opening of the ear. So if you find that foam earplugs are uncomfortable, itchy or cause too much pressure, silicone putty earplugs may be a better choice for you. 

Wax earplugs

Wax earplugs are made from cotton and wax and are moldable, fitting almost all ear canal shapes. If you have a smaller ear canal, you may find that these fit better and have a tighter seal than foam or silicone earplugs. Wax earplugs are also reusable and durable, although some people with long hair may find that they stick to the hair while sleeping.

Custom-molded/pre-molded earplugs

Custom-molded earplugs can provide you with a very personalized fit, since the silicone can be molded into the exact shape of your ear canal. It takes less than 10 minutes to make the earplugs, and they can be washed with each use.

Battery-operated sleep buds

Apart from offering noise-blocking features, battery-operated sleep buds deliver sounds designed to help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. The buds are connected to an app that plays calm and soothing sounds, such as white noise and nature sounds. These can be used for 8-10 hours straight when fully charged.

Are there any side effects to using earplugs?

Earplugs are generally safe for daily use, especially if you clean reusable ones regularly. However, there are potential side effects.

Over time, earplugs can push earwax deeper into the ear canal and cause buildup or infections. This can lead to problems such as tinnitus or temporary hearing loss. To get rid of earwax buildup, you can use ear drops or have your doctor remove it.


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Medically Reviewed on 5/12/2021
Samelli AG, Gomes RF, Chammas TV, Silva BG, Moreira RR, Fiorini AC. The study of attenuation levels and the comfort of earplugs. Noise Health. 2018;20(94):112-119. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5965002/

Queensland Government. Personal Hearing Protectors – Different Types. https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0031/15898/perhearpro_type.pdf