Reusable earplugs

Everything You Need to Know About Reusable Earplugs

If you’re looking to buy earplugs, you’ll need to decide a major factor: do you want reusable earplugs, or disposable earplugs?

Both options have their own pros and cons. Here we’ll look at everything you need to know about reusable earplugs, how to use them properly and what situations these work best in.

Why reusable earplugs?

The main benefit of reusable earplugs is that you can wash and re-wear them. You don’t need to continuously rebuy earplugs just to throw them out after a few uses. In terms of cost, reusable earplugs can be very beneficial.

Reusable plugs also tend to come in a particular flange design that some people prefer. Otherwise, disposable foam plugs usually require the user to roll them into the proper shape before using them.

Material & Design

Reusable ear plugs are usually made from either a soft silicone or plastic-blend. Because they use these types of materials, you can wash reusable plugs without having to immediately throw them away. Their materials, (especially soft silicone which is the most popular) is durable and effective for both protecting your hearing without losing its shape.

Foam plugs are also extremely popular, but these cannot be worn more than a few times before getting dirty. Because you need to squeeze them into a thin shape for your ear canal, they quickly lose their effectiveness after being worn a few times. The soft foam is also a great breeding ground for dirt, oils and germs and make it impossible to clean properly. These earplugs definitely have their place, such as earplugs for sleeping, but they cannot be reused appropriately.

Noise Reduction Rating

Reusable earplugs can come in a variety of different noise reduction rating (NRR). Typically, earplugs come with a maximum NRR of around 33 dB. Earmuffs usually have a max NRR of 31 dB. Earmuffs are slightly less protective because they don’t insert into the ear canal like plugs do.

The higher the NRR, the more protection you will receive.

Earmuffs are always reusable, while earplugs can either be reusable or disposable. Typically, NRR don’t change too much between reusable earplugs versus disposable. However, some soft foam earplugs can provide huge sound reduction, but these must be thrown away after 1-2 uses.

Noise Reduction Rating Comparison

Mack’s Dreamgirl Soft Foam Earplugs (Disposable)

Mack's Dreamgirl Soft Foam Earplugs

Noise reduction rating – 30 dB
Material – Disposable soft foamQuantity –  50 pairs
Price – Around $9
Packaging – Comes in a large plastic tub.

Lullies Ear Plugs (Reusable)

Lullies Earplugs

Noise reduction rating – 29 dB
Material – Soft silicone
Quantity – One pair
Price – Around $11
Packaging – Comes with a small plastic carrying case

As you can see, both earplug types are fairly similar in terms of price and NRR. However, you get 50 pairs of disposable earplugs versus one pair of reusable silicone earplugs. Lullies say that their plugs should last a year. However, this will change depending on how frequently you use them. In all likelihood, a pair will last you much less if you use them every day.

If you wore Mack’s plugs every night and threw them out after one night, you would last 50 days on one tub. If you used them for two nights, that would double to 100 days. To last a full year, you would need to use a pair of earplugs for a full week before throwing them out. Typically, foam earplugs lose their effectiveness after a few uses.

An easy way to tell disposable plugs from reusable is the basic shape and material. The Mack’s earplugs are a soft, squishy foam that starts out in a basic bell-shape. This is fairly typical of disposable earplugs.

Meanwhile, Lullies earplugs are already molded into their shape which has ridges or “flanges.” Again, this is typical for reusable plugs. Some may only have two ridges, whereas Lullies have three.

Trusted brands for reusable earplugs

Want reusable earplugs but not sure what company to trust? Thankfully, there’s actually a lot of great earplug retailers on the market, even for reusable plugs.

3M 90716-80025T Corded Reusable Earplug

3M Corded Earplugs

3M is a trusted brand across different types of hearing protectors. These corded reusable earplugs are a solid choice, coming in with a NRR of 25 dB.

As with these type of plugs, these come with a three flange design that fits snugly in the ear canal. Because they’re pre-molded, you don’t need to roll them like foam plugs. The chord is an added bonus so you won’t lose them, either.

Worried about trusting 3M? In 2017, the company was ranked within the top 100 companies on the Fortune 500 list of the highest revenue companies in the United States. They’re highly trusted in industries like worker safety and personal protective equipment.

Etymotic Research ER20 High-Fidelity Earplugs

Etymotic Research earplugs

Etymotic Research creates a high quality earplug, especially high fidelity plugs. These are ideal for situations where you still need to hear sound as it’s meant to be heard (such as music concerts). However, they still protect your hearing from loud noises. High fidelity earplugs essentially turn down the volume on external sound, rather than muffling it.

Etymotic means “true to the ear” which reflects the ideals of this company. Focused on research and development of hearing protection, hearing loss and hearing enhancement, Etymotic Research is a solid company for earplugs. Founded in the 1980’s, this company has a strong representation in the hearing community.

Howard Leight by Honeywell SmartFit Corded Reusable Shooting Earplugs

Howard Leight Smartfit

Howard Leight by Honeywell is a trusted name in both earplugs and earmuffs. Most of their protects are shooting or firearm hearing protection.

These particular reusable earplugs use the users body heat to fit the earplug snugly in the ear canal. These SmartFit corded earplugs have a NRR of 25 dB, perfectly acceptable for earplugs (and on the higher end). Although these are listed as “shooting” earplugs, they can be suited for a variety of noisey tasks like cutting the lawn or construction projects.

For the last 30 years, Howard Leight has been a dominating company within the hearing protection community, for both individuals and at work safety.

Reusable earplugs

At the end of the day, reusable earplugs are durable, effective and comfortable. While they don’t suit every situation, they certainly have their place. This solid type of hearing protection is perfect for swimming, shooting, flying or just general noise reduction.

HearStoppers is a blog dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of hearing protection.  Many people don’t realise how easily it can be to lose your hearing. Keep your hearing alive with proper protection.

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