Foam vs Wax vs Silicone: What Material Is Best for Earplugs?

Buying ear plugs? We can help. Here's the scoop on the types of materials you can choose

Your guide to the best materials for ear plugs

Ear plugs have a multitude of different uses, from lowering sound at loud concerts to protecting your ears during a swim to blocking out your partner’s snoring in the middle of the night. However, just as there are plenty of ways to use ear plugs, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ear plug models on the market.

When choosing which ear plugs will be best for you, a great place to start is by determining which material will most suit your needs. The three most common types of ear plug materials are foam, wax, and silicone, and while all three of these materials will help to bring down sound, they also have unique benefits that separate them from each other.

If you’re having trouble deciding what ear plugs are best for you, get the low-down on what the different material types can do for you. At the end of the day, choosing a kind of ear plug is an individual decision that will be based on the activities you want to do and the kind of protection you want to have.

The Pros and Cons of Foam Ear Plugs

Foam ear plugs are what most people are familiar with when they think of ear plugs. They are disposable, easy to mold, and perhaps most importantly, affordable. Foam ear plugs are also the best for providing maximum noise reduction, especially for low-frequency sounds.

On the flip side, while foam ear plugs offer a cheap and easy way to block out sounds, they are made out of a porous material, which makes them more susceptible to bacteria. For this reason, foam ear plugs have to be replaced more frequently than other types of earplugs.

The Pros and Cons of Wax Ear Plugs

Wax ear plugs are the most natural form of ear plugs, and they are often made of beeswax. Unlike foam ear plugs, wax ear plugs are able to seal the ear canal’s entrance without going into the ear. This makes them particularly comfortable.

Wax ear plugs also make a good choice for swimmers, as they are waterproof and completely seal the ear. For this reason, they are also a popular choice amongst doctors who recommend them for patients who are in the healing process after an ear operation.

The Pros and Cons of Silicone Ear Plugs

Like wax ear plugs, silicone ear plugs are also capable of sealing the ear canal without entering the ear, also making them one of the more comfortable material types for ear plugs. However, what sets them apart from both foam and wax ear plugs is the fact that they are the most reusable ear plug, especially if they are made from hard silicone. This being said, if you’re looking for a more comfortable sleep, soft silicone is best.

Where silicone ear plugs tend to fall short is in the sound-blocking department. While they do help lower the volume of surrounding sounds, silicone ear plugs are less effective at completely blocking out sound. However, this does make silicone ear plugs an ideal option for those who don’t wish to completely block out sound, but rather, prefer to still hear noise but at a lower volume. Concert goers and those attending sports games may most benefit from silicone ear plugs for this reason.

Why Should You Use Earplugs?

Ear plugs have a slew of benefits that extend far beyond making a more peaceful environment for the wearer. Ear plugs can actually help protect your hearing. Studies show that humans should never be exposed to sounds louder than 85 decibels for long periods of time. By using ear plugs in environments that are louder than this (such as concerts), you’re protecting your hearing in the long run.

Additionally, ear plugs help provide a better sleep to many wearers, and as research has shown, sleep has a huge effect on bodily and mental health. Sleeping boosts the immune system, helps prevent weight gain, strengthens the heart, improves memory, and can increase productivity and exercise performance.

Foam, Wax, or Silicone: Making a Decision

Before you decide to purchase ear plugs, you should consider what activities you want to use them for. You may actually find that different ear plugs types can benefit you in different ways and that you should invest in a few pairs of each material type. Whether it’s a better night’s sleep you’re after, a toned-down concert, or a dry ear after a swim, ear plugs are one of the most useful purchases you can make.

Resources— NoisyWorld, Healthline, Hearing Choices, SCL Health

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