Most ear plugs are only intended to be used once. This can become expensive if you use them frequently, and throwing out ear plugs after each use is also bad for the environment.
Many people are tempted to reuse regular ear plugs several times, but this can be unhygienic. Single-use ear plugs are hard to clean and deteriorate quickly, so it’s a good idea to look for some that are designed to be reusable.
Differences between reusable and single-use ear plugs
Single-use ear plugs are far more common than reusable ear plugs, so unless the packaging says otherwise you can assume any ear plugs you come across are only intended to be worn once.
Single-use ear plugs are usually made from polyurethane foam which is a soft, squishy material that generally feels comfortable in the ear. These ear plugs are generally very cheap, and if you buy in bulk they can cost less than £0.10 a pair.
Reusable ear plugs are more expensive initially but can work out cheaper in the long run if you wear ear plug frequently. They require more care as you have to wash them and keep them safe.
Reusable ear plugs are often corded, which means that the two ear plugs are attached by a cord. They are normally made from a harder material than single-use ear plugs, and don’t need to be rolled before inserting.
Single-use ear plugs can be better if you’re exposing your ears to very loud noises, as they often have a higher SNR. The SNR corresponds to the level of noise reduction the ear plugs are capable of. Reusable ear plugs often only have an SNR of 20-30 dB, whereas single-use ear plugs frequently have SNRs above 30 dB.
Tips for reusing ear plugs
Here are some useful tips for reusing ear plugs:
- Throw away foam ear plugs if they no longer expand fully after being squeezed. If they have lost their elasticity they won’t offer the same level of hearing protection as new ear plugs.
- Store ear plugs in a clean case or bag.
- If your ear plugs are washable, dry them thoroughly before inserting them back into your ears.
Best Reusable Ear Plugs
Now that you know more about reusable ear plugs, here are some of the best reusable ear plugs you can get in the UK in 2017.
3M Clear E-A-R Germany Ear Plugs
These ear plugs are made from transparent polymer and are almost invisible when they’re in your ears. The transparent design makes them good for concerts and other events where you don’t want it to be obvious that you’re wearing ear plugs. However, they will make things sound muddy if you’re listening to music.
The 3M Clear E-A-R Germany ear plugs use a filter to reduce the sound of loud noises while still allowing you to hear what’s going on around you. They can be washed and reused, and they come with a storage case to keep them clean.
These ear plugs are made by 3M, who are one of the leading names in the hearing protection industry. They’re made to a high standard, and can be relied on to offer real hearing protection.
These ear plugs have an SNR rating of 20 dB, so they can reduce loud noises by roughly 20 decibels. This level of sound reduction isn’t as high as is offered by many of 3M’s disposable ear plugs, but it still makes a noticeable difference.
One common issue with these ear plugs is that they can be quite tight, making them difficult to remove.
Honeywell 1011239 SmartFit Multi-Use Corded Earplug
These ear plugs from Howard Leight feature a removeable cord that you can use to keep the ear plugs together. The cord is useful if you want to prevent losing an ear plug, but it’s nice to be able to remove it if desired.
The material these ear plugs are made from is a thermoplastic elastomer which means they adapt to fit the ear canal well and should last a long time. Many people find they feel softer than the average ear plug, making them a good choice for sleeping in. However, everyone’s ears are different so we can’t guarantee you’ll find them comfortable.
These ear plugs have an SNR of 30 dB, which is substantially higher than the 20 dB SNR of the 3M Clear E-A-R Germany ear plugs reviewed above. This makes them a better choice if you’re exposed to very loud noises.
One nice thing about the Honeywell 1011239 SmartFit ear plugs is that they’re sold with a case so you can keep them safe and clean.
Senner MusicPro Hearing Protection Ear Plugs
These ear plugs are designed for musicians and gig-goers who want discrete hearing protection without reducing their enjoyment of music. They reduce loud noises significantly without dulling them or making music sound muddy.
The Senner MusicPro Hearing Protection Ear Plugs have an SNR of 21 dB, which corresponds to roughly a 21-decibel reduction in volume when you’re exposed to loud noises. This means your hearing will be protected at loud concerts but you’ll still be able to hear what’s going on around you.
In addition to wearing at gigs, they’re also good for other purposes like reducing wind noise when riding a motorbike. Since these ear plugs aren’t designed to block out all noise they’re not the best for sleeping in. If you want something better at reducing the sound of snoring, try the Honeywell 1011239 SmartFit reviewed above, or check out these recommended ear plugs for sleeping.
These ear plugs are reusable and can be kept safe in the aluminium box provided. This makes them a good investment if you’re a musician or you go to lots of gigs.
Alternatives to reusable ear plugs
If you’re worried about the hygiene implications of reusing ear plugs, you might want to consider buying disposable ear plugs in bulk. Buying ear plugs in packs of 200 or so can work out very cheap in the long run. Another alternative is to wear ear defenders instead of ear plugs, as you will be able to use them much longer.