Best Earplugs of 2021
The Flents Quiet Contours are at the top of our list when it comes to outstanding performance. We found the soda bottle shape of these plugs to fit nicely in most ears. The back is larger than the tip of this model, which makes them easy to insert. The process of inserting the Quiet Contours is also speedy thanks to their rapidly expanding foam. During our overnight trials, we found these plugs to be comfy for sleeping as well. To top it off, they have a relatively high noise reduction rating of 33 decibels.
The Flents Quiet Contour plugs are considerably long. The curved shape is not well suited for those with smaller ears because you would not be able to insert the plugs far enough to benefit from their profile. This model is not designed for swimming — if you plan on getting in the water, you're going to need to look elsewhere. The Quiet Contours can be reused a few times, but ultimately they are disposable. Still, we think the Contours are a top-notch product and are ideal for those looking for an easy to use and comfortable model.
If you're shopping for plugs for commercial or construction purposes or just know that you're going to need large quantities of plugs for yourself, we recommend the Honeywell Laser Lite. These plugs are highly conspicuous to easily display to safety inspectors that your employees comply with regulations to ensure that they are protected from ear damage. To help keep costs down, the Laser Lites are sold in an array of large quantities to refill any one of the many large dispensers that Honeywell has available for purchase. Not only does using a dispenser cut down on costs, but it also cuts down on waste. If you're working in a large warehouse or job site with a high number of employees, having pairs of plugs that are individually packaged will produce a ton of garbage.
For those looking for a few sets of plugs to keep in the garage for the occasional use, the Honeywell Laser Lites are not the way to go — they are hard to find in small quantities. The Laser Lites are not intended for use while bathing or swimming, and they are not meant to be reused. However, if you're looking for plugs that are very visible and comfortable and you know that you're going to go through a whole lot of them, we highly recommend the Honeywell Laser Lite.
For those searching for washable plugs, we recommend the ANBOW Reusable Silicones. The long stem coupled with the concentric mushroom-shaped design makes it extremely easy to insert this model. There is no rolling them or compressing them with your fingers — you simply push them into your ear. ANBOW lists swimming as one of the uses for these plugs, and our team found that they provided a seal that would be sufficient for watersports.
There are a few drawbacks to the ANBOW Reusable Silicone design. Our research analysts found them less comfortable than expanding foam models because of their circular form — ear canals are not perfectly shaped. Even though the manufacturer claims that they are suitable for sleeping, we didn't find them to be comfortable unless you are sleeping flat on your back because the stems stick out so far. Even though we identified a couple of small shortcomings, the ANBOWs are a fantastic choice if you want a waterproof and washable set of plugs that are easy to insert.
The Mack's Pillow Soft Silicones have a unique design. Instead of inserting the plug into your ear canal, this silicone putty style version gets pushed into the grooves and contours of your outer ear. They can be used for just about any size and shape of ear thanks to their moldability. Once properly inserted, the putty creates a watertight seal making the Pillow Soft Silicones ideal for swimmers or those that don't like to get water in their ears while bathing. Although these plugs are considered disposable, they can be used up to five times, giving you a little extra value for your purchase.
The silicone putty outer ear design is beneficial in several ways. Still, it's also more time consuming to insert the Pillow Softs than plug types that you roll between your fingers and insert into your ear canal. We found that sometimes it can take a few tries to get a good seal, which can get a bit frustrating. Our team didn't find these plugs terribly uncomfortable to sleep in, but foam versions are better if you sleep on your side. If you're looking to block out sounds as much as possible, the Mack's Pillow Soft Silicones are not the way to go. This model has a somewhat low noise reduction rating of 22 decibels. Even though they may not be for everyone and aren't meant for an array of applications, we recommend these plugs for swimming and watersports.
If you are looking for an extra soft version, it's hard to beat Mack's Ultra Softs. Made from super low-pressure comfort foam, this version of plug is the ultimate in cushiness. Their squishy material is perfect for sleeping. We could hardly tell that they were there while testing them overnight. Mack's offers various package options so you can buy as few pairs as you want or get a pack of 100 individually wrapped pairs.
The Mack's Ultra Soft Foams are not without their flaws. They are so mushy that they take a bit longer to expand than more rigid foam plugs, so they take extra time to insert. This version is so soft that it's a bit daunting to insert into your ear canal because the plugs stay so thin after you've compressed them, so we recommend that you exercise extra caution while putting them in. That said, if you're looking for the softest pair around, we think the Mack's Ultras are a good choice.
The Mpow HP133As are our favorite earplug model when it comes to canceling noise. With a noise reduction rating of 38 decibels, you can rest assured that these plugs are giving you a top-notch safety rating. The HP133As come with a carrying case on a keyring so you can attach them to whichever accessory you desire. The foam material they are made from is very comfy if you'd like to use these plugs for sleeping.
Although we do like the polyurethane foam the Mpow HP133As are made from, we aren't the biggest fans of this model's shape. We'd prefer the contoured soda bottle shape that many competitors offer compared to the basic barrel shape of the HP133As. We like how stiff the Mpows are, but when it comes time to insert them, you'd better go about it quickly to get a good fit — they expand so fast that you only have a few seconds to place them in your ear. With the stiff construction comes a high level of noise protection, so if that's your primary concern, these are the way to go.
If you are allergic to latex, you're in luck — the Flents Quiet Times are 100% latex-free. These plugs are made in the good old US of A, and they come with a convenient carrying case. This model's noise reduction rating is an admirable 33 decibels — ensuring that your ears will have a high level of protection from the audible environment.
We do have a couple of complaints about the Quiet Times. First of all, they aren't that comfortable compared to models that have a contoured shape to them. Also, along with the basic form comes a lack of a "back" that stops the earplug from going into your ear too far. It'd be wise to be careful while inserting this model. Despite the drawbacks, we still think this is a great model if you're in the market for a latex-free earplug.
The Flents Quiet Pleases are about as basic as it gets when it comes to these devices. They have a cylindrical shape, a generic color, and a reasonably solid noise rating. We found with the old-school design that these plugs work well for smaller ears, though they might stick out a bit.
The shape of the Flents Quiet Please is not exactly ergonomic — this model is a blast from the past when it comes to design. If you're looking for a comfortable model, you're going to need to spend a few extra dollars for the added satisfaction. The Quiet Pleases are not very soft either, but some people may prefer stiff plugs. If you want the classic shaped earplug, these might be the way to go. Otherwise, we'd recommend going with a higher-end model.
Why You Should Trust Us
Ross Patton and Austin Palmer have teamed up to review a long list of products. These guys have seen it all from impact drivers to rooftop tents to electric skateboards to ergonomic keyboards. With Ross's formal education in environmental science coupled with ten year's experience in the snowsport industry, you can trust that he is giving products the ultimate scrutiny. One of the first employees hired at GearLab, Austin has been testing products nonstop for nearly five years. He is our resident expert when it comes to coming up with creative and innovative experiments to put devices to the true test.
To test these devices, we listened to the same song at the same volume on a home stereo to subjectively judge any differences in a sound reduction or quality. Our team spent a night sleeping with each different type to see any differences in comfort. We also used our expert panel of judges to see if there were any large differences in each model's overall feel.
Analysis and Test Results
To assess the overall functionality of these hearing, headache, and stress saving devices, we divided our review into three sections: comfort while wearing, comfort while sleeping, and ease of use.
Comfort While Wearing
It is crucial that products such as these are as comfortable as possible. They will often be worn for long periods, sometimes for 40 hours a week or more. When you are getting that much use out of a piece of personal protective equipment, the last thing you want is to have to endure any discomfort or pain. For this reason, we put the majority of the weight of our total score on this section.
In the realm of pleasantry, it is hard to top the foam models. Our team of professional consumer product research analysts found that the Flents Quiet Contour and the Honeywell Laser Lite offered the highest degree of comfort. To insert these models, you compress them by rolling them between your fingers, and then once they are placed into your ear canal, they expand to fill the curves and figurations of your ear.
If you'd like a model that's a bit faster to insert but still offers an admirable degree of comfort, check out the ANBOW Silicones. These are not quite as comfortable as the Flents Quiet Contours or the Honeywell Laser Lites, but considering that they are reusable, we think that the trade-off is worth it.
Comfort While Sleeping
Many people have partners who snore, need to sleep during the day, or just prefer little or no noise while they are resting. We took the time to get a night of sleep in each different model to determine the distinguishing differences in the comfort of sleeping with each product.
We found the Flents Quiet Contour and the Honeywell Laser Lite to offer the utmost comfort during our assessment. Both of these sets of plugs are made out of foam, making them exceptionally comfortable for sleeping.
Ease of Use
These devices can often be a pain to put in your ear. With some types, the foam expands too quickly because it is so soft, making it a race to get into your ear canal on time. On the flip side, some expand so slowly that you'll be waiting for minutes on end before they begin efficiently reducing noise. If you prefer the putty style earplug, you will need to roll them into a ball before putting them in your ears and it may take a try or two to get a proper fit.
When it comes to inserting the plugs, we found that the ANBOW Reusable Silicones were the easiest to insert, thanks to their simplistic design. You can just hold them by the stem and push them into your ear canal without rolling or squeezing beforehand.
Foam plugs such as the Flents Quiet Contour and the Honeywell Laser Lite are reasonably easy to use. You can simply roll them in your fingertips to compress them and then quickly insert them before they expand.
Some plugs such as Mack's Pillow Soft Silicones can take a little bit of extra time to insert. With this model, you have to roll each plug into a ball and then push them into your outer ear rather than insert them into your ear canal. This style requires a little bit more time and effort to deal with, but the seal created with silicone putty will keep your inner ear nice and dry once it's established.
Finding the right type of a seemingly basic product can often be a surprisingly tricky task. If you're going swimming, you aren't going to want the same set as somebody who has a snoring partner. Likewise, if you like to nap with plugs in, you aren't going to need a set with the same noise reduction rating as if you were running a jackhammer. Here at GearLab, our goal is to take the unnecessary headache out of shopping so that you can purchase the perfect product for your needs. Whether you are using your plugs professionally or just to take a stress-free nap, we hope that having read this article, you now have the knowledge that you were seeking.
— Ross Patton and Austin Palmer