You only get a pair of ears, so it’s a good idea to take care of them– and a good set of earplugs can come in handy in all sorts of situations. A proper set is a much better solution for blocking noise during the night than a pillow on your head and is more comfortable than headphones. What you are looking for in earplugs really depends on what you want them to do. When you sleep, for example, comfort is paramount. Plus, you need a blind approach to block out hum, traffic noise, or a car alarm on the street.
If you’re watching a band play live, however, you want to maintain as much fidelity as possible and simply cut out frequencies that might be harmful to your hearing. The average gig produces around 100 decibels, but if you’ve ever seen My Bloody Valentine you’ll know that some bands seem to have a personal vendetta against your ears – and continued exposure to sounds above 85dB can cause permanent damage to your hearing. This means that it is not possible to choose a pair of earplugs that will work in all situations. Instead, we’ve selected several that meet different needs.
April 2023 Update: We’ve added Vibes High Fidelity Earplugs and Sony WF-1000XM4 Earbuds for travelers.
Special offer for Gear readers: get a One year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you wish). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.