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Earplugs are the absolute standard solution when it comes to sleeping despite noise. Some people are fine with that. For others, however, earplugs can be quite uncomfortable and painful, especially after several hours of use.
Then in the end you only have the choice between aching ears or noise. So a good alternative is needed!
Here we round up the pros and cons of earplugs and highlight the best alternatives for quiet and comfortable nights.
Benefits of Earplugs
Earplugs are the standard way to protect against noise for a reason.
Wax or silicone earplugs in particular are actually very effective and effectively block out a variety of noises.
They’re also generally very cheap, especially when compared to most alternatives (see below). Many silicone earplugs are also very durable, washable and can therefore be reused for a long time.
Earplugs aren’t just for sleeping. They can also be helpful in the office or at university. Some models even seal the ear waterproof and can therefore also be useful for swimming.
Disadvantages of earplugs
Unfortunately, despite their many benefits, earplugs are not for everyone. Here is a short list of the disadvantages that earplugs can bring:
- They can just be extremely uncomfortable. The pressure of the earplugs can be quite high, especially for people with narrow ear canals. After a few hours, that can turn into pain that disrupts sleep even more than the noise you’re trying to block out.
- Some earplugs can cause itching. Foam earplugs in particular tend to absorb moisture from the ear and thus dry out the skin over time. This can then lead to uncomfortable itching.
- Silicone plugs, on the other hand, do not absorb any moisture at all. This, in turn, can make them fall out more easily.
- A lot of people just find it generally uncomfortable to have something stuck in their ear canal all the time.
- Earplugs can mean that you no longer hear the alarm clock in the morning and you oversleep!
The best earplug alternatives
Given the plethora of downsides to earplugs, it makes sense to start looking for good alternatives. We were able to find four good options.
1. Noise canceling headphones
Noise-cancelling headphones can be just the right alternative to earplugs. With their special technology, they can easily neutralize noise-sound waves. That means they don’t rely on the ear canals being completely sealed.
Noise-cancelling headphones are often better than earplugs , especially when travelling, because they are particularly effective at neutralizing constant and loud low-frequency noise, such as aircraft or engine noise.
In addition, over-ear headphones do not even come close to the ear canals and are therefore much more comfortable to wear than earplugs for many people. The best example of such headphones are also our top favorite NC headphones: the Sony WH-1000XM4 *. They deliver the best noise-cancelling performance on the market and also get absolute top ratings for sound and handling.
The disadvantage of over-ear headphones is, of course, that you can’t really lie comfortably with them on your side.
So if you want to use noise-cancelling headphones mainly for sleeping in bed, you should rather use in-ear headphones . With its QuiteComfort Earbuds *, the Bose company offers an extremely popular model that is characterized by high comfort and also very effective noise-cancelling performance.
2. Headband Headphones
A good headphone option for side sleeping is headband headphones.
These have very flat headphones that lie loosely on the ears. Additional padding allows you to lie on your side with it without being uncomfortable.
The headband also prevents the speakers from slipping.
Unfortunately, headband headphones usually do not have a noise-cancelling function . This means that they can’t really quieten sounds, but mainly allow them to be drowned out through the speakers.
They quickly reach their limits in particularly noisy environments.
3. White noise
If you’re looking for something that doesn’t touch your ears at all, white noise might be the solution for you.
White noise is a mixture of sounds covering the entire frequency range of human hearing. It causes all other noises in the room to mix with the noise and ultimately can no longer be perceived individually.
This is very well suited, for example, to cover the television of the roommate or the neighbors.
But even without background noise, white noise often has a positive effect on sleep. This applies to babies and pets as well as adults.
It may also be worth experimenting with other “colors” of noise. So-called pink or brown noise are also often perceived as inducing sleep.
There are special noise devices – also called “white noise machines” – which are designed solely to reproduce only the noise for many hours.
At the beginning you can also try it with your cell phone to see if the noise helps you. You can easily find suitable sequences on YouTube or Spotify if you search for white or pink noise.
4. Ear muffs
Of course, you can also consider getting proper earmuffs. Although such are mostly used in industry and construction work, there is nothing wrong with using them for sleeping.
Compared to earplugs, they definitely offer the advantage that (similar to over-ear headphones) they do not come into contact with the ear canal. As a result, they are usually much more comfortable to wear, especially for several hours.
Unfortunately, they also have the disadvantage that you can’t really lie on your side with them. They are therefore also mainly suitable for sleeping while sitting.
Other tips for better sleep
Both earplugs and the four tips above are quick ways to protect yourself from noise.
However, if you find yourself dealing with the same noise night after night, you might want to consider making a few basic improvements to your bedroom to keep the noise from entering the room in the first place.
We’ve already put together a related article on the subject that gives you some helpful tips that may help you avoid the need for earplugs, headphones, or white smoking afterwards.
Have a look: Make the bedroom soundproof – Nine simple tricks
Earplugs are often a simple and quite effective option for protecting against noise and getting a better night’s sleep. Unfortunately, they also come with some disadvantages. For example, they can cause pain or itching in the ear after wearing them for a long time. Some of the best earplug alternatives include noise-cancelling headphones and white noise. In addition, you should consider whether you can better soundproof the bedroom itself so that the noise cannot penetrate into the room in the first place.
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