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Home > The 10 Best Earplugs For Sleeping, 2024: How To Block Out Noisy Neighbours And Snoring Spouses

The 10 Best Earplugs For Sleeping, 2024: How To Block Out Noisy Neighbours And Snoring Spouses

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Sleeping well is vital to staying healthy. Regularly getting a good night’s slumber will improve mental and physical health, boost productivity at work, help creativity, benefit the immune system and encourage your brain and heart to function properly. Sleep deprivation can lead to prematurely aged skin, lower libido and heightened susceptibility to diabetes or Alzheimer’s.

According to a survey cited by The Sleep Council, 70 per cent of us sleep for less than seven hours a night, which, for most people, is too little. Even the best duvet, the best mattress and the best pillow in the world are no good if your sleep is disturbed by noise, whether it’s neighbours partying, traffic thundering past or birds chirping at 4am.

The best earplugs can make a huge difference to your sleep quality. For many of us, these little buds are the only thing reducing noise pollution during the night. “Earplugs are great for blocking out noise such as snoring partners, or for using in the warmer months when you may leave a window open at night,” explains Lisa Artis, chief adviser at The Sleep Council.

The good news is they’re cheap (although high-end ear plugs are available — see our review below), they’re easy to use, and, on the whole, they work. I’ve tested pretty much every one on the market. You can read my full reviews below but, if you’re in a rush, here’s a quick look at my top five:

Which are the best earplugs in 2024? At a glanceBest overall — ACS Custom SleepSoundBest value earplugs — Quies Natural WaxBest reusable earplugs — Bollsen Life+Most comfortable earplugs — Mack’s Pillow SoftBest noise-cancelling earplugs – QuietOn 3.1 Sleep EarbudsWhich earplugs are best for sleeping?There are three main kinds. Wax earplugs come as a cylinder or ball that you warm in your hands and mould into a cone before placing in the ear. The benefits are that they can be shaped to fit and, being quite dense, block out a considerable amount of noise.

Reusable silicone earplugs, which you wash in cold water between uses, are lighter and more comfortable. Some find them less effective at filtering out noise, though in tests our reviews editor didn’t find this to be the case. But they do cost more than disposables.

Foam earplugs are the cheapest option and being soft, they’re reasonably comfortable for sleeping in. However, as a porous material they’re a fertile breeding grown for bacteria, so you have to replace them regularly.

White noise for sleeping is increasingly popular. The mixed frequencies mask unwanted sounds at night and, for people who don’t want it playing over speakers (perhaps your partner doesn’t like it), there are now specially-designed white noise earplugs, like the Bose Sleepbuds reviewed below.

How I tested the best earplugs Simon testing Bollsen, Quies and Bose for their ability to block noise and aid sleep Earplugs start cheap but rise steeply for custom-made and noise-cancelling varieties, so I considered price as well as noise-blocking ability over a couple of weeks for each. I also rated for comfort: a good earplug won’t hurt when you lie on it, won’t irritate the inner ear and will stay in place all night.

I live on a busy road with noisy neighbours and a fire station nearby, so there’s plenty of noise to block. As for snoring, I had to ask my wife to test the earplugs too. Someone in our bed snores, apparently. I can confirm it’s not her, but beyond that I’m at a loss. The final factors I considered were value for money, design and any ergonomic features.

Best earplugs for sleeping1. ACS Custom SleepSound£84, ACS Custom

Best overall, 10/10

We like: unbeatable comfort and noise-blocking

We don’t like: the high price

ACS: moulded to the shape of your inner ear 27dB noise reduction ratingMedical grade siliconEar impressions requiredBritish firm ACS are famous for making custom hearing protection for rock stars and also serve motorsports and the military. With this custom-moulded silicone earplug, they have entered the “my husband snores” market too.

I made an order online and was sent a voucher to see an affiliated audiologist (there are hundreds, mostly in Boots Hearing Care outlets), who made the impression of my ears with a kind of soft paste, squirted from a big syringe, which hardened after five minutes into the exact shape of my ear canal.

It was a slightly unpleasant process but worth it when, six days later, I was sent the custom ear plugs. They come with a lubricant but even without it they were the most comfortable ear plugs I tested, very easy to lie down on since they don’t protrude from the ear at all. Since they filled the canal completely, the sound damping was by far the best.

Against those two pluses I have to set the high price, which is equivalent to 140 pairs of the perfectly reasonable Quies wax plugs below. But if I’ll need ear plugs three times a month for the next five years, which ACS say is the product lifespan, they’ll work out cheaper.

A tough call financially, but it feels good to have a pair of these by the bed. They’re certainly the best ear plugs available.

2. Quies Natural Wax£5.55 for eight pairs, Amazon

Best value earplugs, 10/10

We like: by far the best noise-blocking at this price point

We don’t like: if tempted to re-use them, they become a bit unhygeinic

Quies: far the most effective disposable option 27dB noise reduction ratingMix of mineral waxes and cottonThese were recommended to me by a French friend. Everyone in France has some “boules Quies” by their bedside, apparently. After squidging the wax around for a bit until it warms and softens, you simply push them into your ear and tamp around the edges until it forms a seal. Not all noise is blocked, but more than the other budget plugs I tested.

They don’t get lodged inside your ears like silicon plugs can and they don’t keep melting once they reach your body temperature. They just naturally mould to your ears and will last all night, although I usually only needed them for the first few hours.

The makers say they should be discarded after one use, but I could get four or five nights out of each pair before they got dirty and lost their appeal. I think they’re far better than foam plugs, while similarly priced.

Also in this style:

The German equivalent of Quies is Ohropax (£4.99 for three pairs), exactly the same thing with one small advantage: the tin is easier to open than Quies’s strangely fiddly plastic container.

Boot’s mouldable wax earplugs (£2.70 for five pairs) are a very similar option, with an identical noise reduction rating of 27dB. They come as cylinders, rather than spheres, which some may find easier to mould for insertion.

3. LoopFrom £19.95, Loop Earplugs

Best earplugs for noise sensitivity, 7/10

We like: nice range of colours and an iPhone-like design vibe

We don’t like: the -18dB version lets quite a lot of noise through

Loop: let in varying amounts of sound depending on your needs 18dB to 27dB noise reduction ratingSoft reusable siliconeMarketed as a lifestyle choice as much as a noise reducer, Loop’s soft, reusable silicone earplugs contain an acoustic channel with a sound-damping mesh of varying thicknesses. The range goes from Quiet, for sleeping, to Experience which blocks less sound so you can still hear conversation. They all come in lots of colours and the website, designed a bit like a fashion store, helps you decide which type is right for you based on whether you’ll wear them in bed, at a gig, on a motorbike or in social settings.

The idea here is that not everyone wants to block everything out. Many people find busy restaurants, offices or social events too jarring to the ears and just want something to take the edge off.

Personally, I found it hard to detect much sound-damping on the -18dB Experience plugs (you can buy an additional Mute fitting that increases damping by 5dB) but the -27dB Quiet model was useful for sleeping, offering almost the same damping as the Bollsens below. Where Loop really score is the softness of the silicon, the range of tips from very small to very big and the loop itself, which makes them easy to put in and take out. They’re also the best-looking plugs, with a small carry-case you could easily keep on a keyring.

4. Bollsen Life +£26.95, Bollsen

Best silicone earplugs, 8/10

We like: the lightness and comfort

We don’t like: higher price than disposables, for similar noise-blocking

Bollsen: let you hear conversations but not snoring 24dB noise reduction rating100 percent silicone, hypoallergenic40 day money back guaranteeAt full price these Munich-made plugs are £50, which seems a lot to pay for three grams of silicone, but there are a few reasons to consider them. First is the satisfying way you put them in: pop one on the end of your finger and screw it into your earhole. The lamellas adapt to the shape of your ear and won’t come out unless you pull on the removal tab.

Then there’s the soundproofing, which is interesting. I could easily hear my wife when she talked to me and higher-pitched sounds like the kettle boiling or the alarm clock going off were clear, but lower-pitched sounds like snoring, traffic noise and noisy neighbours were blocked almost completely.

They’re very light and soft, the easiest to sleep in of all the plugs I tested — although, as with most of them, I woke up with a slight earache around 4am, took them out and went straight back to sleep.

They’re washable and can be reused 100 times, according to Bollsen, so the initial outlay could wind up making sense over time.

Also in this style:

Dutch firm Alpine’s Sleepdeep earplug (£14.36 for one small and one medium pair) is almost identical Bollsen’s Life+. The addition of a central cylinder of noise-reducing gel makes it slightly more effective at noise-reduction, but slightly less flexible. Pluggerz, also from Holland (£14.95 for one pair), is another good soft silicone earplug.

5. Mack’s pillow soft silicone earplugs£5.52 for six pairs, Amazon

Most comfortable earplugs, 8/10

We like: that they reliably stay in all night

We don’t like: the sound-blocking isn’t quite as good as wax

Mack’s: extremely comfortable to sleep in 22dB noise reduction ratingHypoallergenic silicone puttyThese work similarly to the Quies plugs but, being made of sticky silicon rather than wax, they cleave more tightly to your ear. In fact when you peel them off, they give you an interesting anatomical imprint of your outer ear canal. They’re not meant to be pushed far in, instead forming a seal on the outside which is tight enough to block water (they’re also used to prevent swimmer’s ear).

Silicone is slightly less dense than wax, so it doesn’t block quite as much sound, but they’re soft enough to wear all night and certainly don’t fall out, unless you’ve worn them too many times and got them covered in fluff. I found they were good for three or four uses.

Also in this style:

Boots’ soft silicone earplugs (£4.95 for three pairs) are more expensive, but come with a carry case and contain an anti-microbial agent.

6. Howard Leight Laser Lite£6.09 for 20 pairs, Amazon

Best foam earplugs, 7/10

We like: the price

We don’t like: foam offers only moderate noise-blocking

Howard Leight: widely considered the best foam earplugs 25dB noise reduction ratingT-shape polyurethane foam with soil-resistant surfaceFoam plugs are the cheapest and not everyone gets on with them, but these top-selling disposables from US megacorporation Honeywell seem to be the ones people go back to after trying other brands.

They key with foam plugs is to roll them up into a tight cone and push it as far into your ear as is comfortable — some even recommend licking the end. The further you push it in, the better the soundproofing is. Then, crucially, hold it in place for about 30 seconds while the foam expands, filling your ear canal and hopefully staying in place. You’ll hear gentle crackling while it’s expanding.

The sound damping is nowhere near as good as with wax or silicone, but it does work. It’s like being underwater or covering your ears with your hands, which is enough to block traffic noise, neighbours and quiet-to-medium snoring. I found these stayed in long enough to fall asleep, but usually fell out some time in the night. My wife couldn’t make them stay in at all.

Foam plugs can irritate and scratch your ears if you reuse them, so these are definitely a disposable option for occasional use.

Also in this style:

UK manufacturer EarHub makes foam earplugs (£4.99 for 10 pairs) with the same T-shape as Howard Leight’s and claims a more impressive noise reduction of 33dB. Superdrug sells a cone-shaped foam earplug (£1.99 for three pairs) that is easier to insert than Boots’ basic cylinder-shaped foam earplugs (£16.80 for 60 pairs), but all work in the same compress-then-expand way.

7. QuietOn 3.1 Sleep Earbuds£249, QuietOn

Best noise-cancelling earplugs, 7/10

We like: remarkable technology

We don’t like: very high price compared to other methods

QuietOn: one third the size of Apple Airpods Active noise cancellationTwo hour charge for 28 hours useWireless, no app requiredMemory foam tips in three sizesThe reason techies rave about QuietOn is the active noise cancellation: the earbuds generate soundwaves at the same frequency but in the opposite phase to incoming sounds, cancelling them out.

You just pop them in your ears, with no app or Bluetooth involved. The result isn’t silence but a kind of cloud-like calm where you can clearly hear voices and high-pitched sounds such as ice cubes tinkling in a glass, but low-frequency sounds like snoring are tuned out. It was quite eerie the first time I tried it. Without the QuietOn earbuds, I could hear the whole neighbourhood. With them in, anything beyond the bedroom wall was simply gone.

Does it help you sleep, though? I’m a side sleeper, and I’ve never found an earphone that I can lie on without it hurting my ear. QuietOn are three times smaller than Apple Airpods Pro, a remarkable feat. I couldn’t feel them at all for the first few hours of the night, which was enough for me to nod off in peace.

I still had to take them out around 3am but luckily, our neighbourhood is far quieter by then. QuietOn promise they’re small enough for side sleepers, so there may be people who could wear them all night. For those people, and for people who don’t sleep on their sides, or want to sleep on a plane or train, this is an impressive high-tech solution.

8. Soundcore Sleep A20 Sleeping Earbuds£119.99, Amazon

Best earbuds for sleeping, 9/10

We like: brilliant if you like to nod off to music, podcasts or white noise

We don’t like: not quite comfortable enough to wear all night

Soundcore: no other earphone is this comfortable Battery life: 10-14 hoursNo noise reduction ratingNight-time earbud with soft rubber tipsLots of people like to nod off to music, podcasts or audiobooks but the perennial problem is that lying on headphones hurts your ears. The QuietOn buds, above, solve the pain problem but you can’t use them as headphones. They just cancel noise. (Bose’s now-discontinued SleepBuds were the same.) Soundcore Sleep is the only product that does the trick.

These are basically a normal pair of earbuds, shrunk down and softened. The sound is decent, although if you’ve just been wearing a pair of Airpods you’ll notice a step down in quality.

There’s no active noise-cancellation. So how do they help you sleep? Exterior noises are mostly blocked out by the double layer of soft silicone in the tips. The rest is masked by what you’re listening to, whether it’s your favourite nodding-off podcast, soothing music or white noise.

Listening through the Soundcore app lets you engage Sleep Mode: a selection of noise-masking sounds like rain, crackling fire and snoring cats. You can combine any three into your own personal soporific soundscape, which has the same isolating effect as white noise. (The numerous cooking and eating noises must feel comforting to some people, I guess.)

There are four sizes of silicone tip and two sizes of rubber wings to keep them in place. I found they stayed in very well. In fact, you could use them as a light and comfortable pair of everyday earbuds if it wasn’t for the limited volume and playback time. A full charge gives you up to 10 hours of music, or 14 hours of the noise-masking Sleep Mode.

There is no way of controlling volume or playback by pressing the buds, which makes sense considering you’ll be sleeping on them. Talking of which, it’s easy to nod off with the earbuds in but you’ll probably find yourself taking them out at around 4am to relieve the slight pressure and going straight back to sleep.

Overall, this is a very impressive little product, much cheaper than the QuietOns and considerably more useful if you’re a night-time listener to music or podcasts.

9. Sennheiser SoundProtex£34.99, Sennheiser

Best hearing protectors, 8/10

We like: designed for gigs as well as sleeping

We don’t like: so small, they can be a little tricky to take out

Sennheiser: choose between two different noise filters comes with three tip sizes and two noise filters: ‘mid’ and ‘full block’19dB noise reduction with mid filter. Full-block filter much stronger but not ratedHypoallergenic TPE (thermoplastic elastomer)Given that some of German hi-fi firm Sennheiser’s noise-cancelling headphones cost well over £1,000, you’d expect something special from their earplugs. And they are remarkabley well engineered, similar in design to the Bollsen Life + above, but with a choice of three tips for a closer fit to your ear and, unusally, two different filters depending on how much noise-damping you want.

I found the Full Block filter worked very well as a sleep aid, blocking street noise and anything low- or mid-frequency, including light snoring, although as with other earplugs you do still hear high-frequency sounds like alarm clocks.

Interestingly, when I wore them in the office I couldn’t hear my colleague sitting next to me but I could hear a high-pitched conversation on the other side of the room incredibly clearly, as if I had super-hearing. Spies will be very interested in this feature – especially since they’re so small as to be invisible.

That’s a bit of a drawback when it comes to taking them out – the little rubber tag can be a bit hard to grasp – but it means they stay in all night and don’t hurt as much as some others.

The ‘Mid’ filter is not quite so good for sleeping, since it intentionally lets more sound through. It’s designed for gigs and other noisy environments where you want to hear without damaging your hearing. (Again, I found this gave me super eavesdropping powers in the office.) They’re very easy to swap out and like the plugs can be cleaned with a cloth or in warm water.

The Sennheisers aren’t cheap, but are tiny enough to carry with you everywhere and could last years and years.

10. Loop Earplugs Engage Kids£29.95, Loop

Best earplugs for kids, 9/10

We like: colourful design is very appealing for children

We don’t like: they fall out fairly easily if not positioned correctly or right size is used.

Loop: designed for kids 16dB noise reduction ratingGreat for kids aged 6 plusReviewed by Catherine Hufton

While this pick isn’t specifically for sleeping, they’re worthy of a mention due to the brilliant hole they’ve filled in the earplug market. Loop’s new earplugs for kids are designed for sound-sensitive children who need help concentrating at home or school, or who become anxious in loud environments. They offer the same tech as the adult version but in a scaled-down version with up to 16 dB of noise reduction.

We tried the earplugs out with our own children in both a bowling alley, and afternoon tea London tour bus (which was particularly noisy) and found that they really helped the kids cope with such stimulating environments. The bright, colourful designs are also really appealing and come in their own carry case with different ear tips in sizes XXS-M. (Make sure you try out the sizes before you need them, as they do fall out easily if too big). Once in, however, they’re very discreet so noise-sensitive kids could wear them to a party, for instance, and no one would really notice. It’s worth noting, that they shouldn’t be worn for more than 90 minutes in one sitting or for more than three hours a day.

Also testedHappy Ears discovery pack£20.80, Happy Ears

Happy Ears: highly rated elsewhere, but not so much by us Noise reduction rating 25dBThermoplastic elastomer tip, ABS plastic stemI feel duty bound to mention these Swedish plugs since they are so highly rated by dedicated users, but I couldn’t get on with them. It’s an unusual design, with a small rigid stem attached to a soft oval tip which is supposed to form a seal at the base of your ear canal.

Happy Ears recommend buying this discovery pack so you can find your right fit. Sadly none of the small, medium or large tips were big enough to fit my (clearly massive) right earhole, although the large one seemed to fit the left. It was a non-starter for me. My wife found the same.

Co-tester Abigail managed to get a fit, and found the soundproofing to be quite effective, although one fell out in the night. Presumably Happy Ears’ many fans had better luck than us.

If you’re looking for more ways to improve your sleep, read our guides to the best wake-up light alarm clocks (which are highly recommended to earplug users) and the best mattresses for back pain.