Earplugs are surprisingly versatile in the different situations they can be used. Whether you tend to be hypersensitive to noise when you’re going to sleep, live or work around noisy environments like airports or construction sites, or want to keep water out of your ears while swimming, earplugs are handy little accessories to use.
But, like most things, not all earplugs are made equal. Eardrums are especially fragile membranes, not only susceptible to the type of noise damage we want to use earplugs to prevent, but also to build-ups of earwax or harsh pressure caused by earplugs.
This is especially risky if you have sensitive ears, or if the plug doesn’t properly fit into the mold of your ear, either because they are too big, or because they don’t automatically adapt to smaller ear shapes. If you have smaller ears, or wish to choose a pair for kids, we have a couple of picks you might find useful.
Frequently recommended by ENT doctors, this set of silicone ear plugs are the perfect choice to keep water out of your ears when swimming or showering, especially if you’re recovering from or trying to prevent ear infections. The concave plugs are designed to fit into the inner shell of your ear, creating a watertight seal that prevents dirty pool water, shampoo or soap getting in, without probing far enough into your ears to damage your eardrums or block the canal.
Since inception in 1977, these plugs have been widely used and prescribed for children, who are more sensitive to ear infection and damage. This does not mean they aren’t versatile – even athletes opt for ProPlugs, with the brand being officially endorsed by the USSF National Surf Team. Great additions to swimwear when you’re using public pools, there are multiple size options available, with a size chart to help you pick the best fit to comfortably sit in your ears.
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Mack’s Dreamgirl Soft Foam Earplugs
Specially designed for smaller ears, particularly for women, these foam earplugs are designed to go easy on your eardrums, especially for bedtime. Perfect for use if you have trouble sleeping in noisy environments – be it snoring roommates or living close to construction sites – these plugs reduce noise by 30 decibels, alleviating the damage otherwise dealt on your eardrums.
These earplugs are also designed to maximise comfort as well as noise reduction with their tapered, foam-soft shape, so they aren’t too invasive to plug in and do not push against your eardrums to block up your canal. Ideal for use if you have sensitive ears, the smaller than standard size of these maximise comfort while sleeping, and reduce the risk that you might accidentally end up pushing them further in.
The Original EarPlanes for Kids
Those accustomed to flying aren’t unfamiliar with the “popping” sensation we experience as the flight rapidly switches down altitudes. The changing air pressure as the flight lands is the culprit behind the ringing or discomfort we experience in our ears as we land. Usually, this is a minor annoyance, but for the sensitive ears of children, it may be a little more problematic than that. In some cases, the “popping” sensation can even cause temporary hearing loss or ear damage, even in adults.
EarPlanes are created specifically to tackle this problem, and have been tested on US Navy Pilots to bulletproof their effectiveness. Made of CeramX, these plugs filter air flow and moderate the effects of sharp pressure changes, popular amongst frequent travellers and air-travel professionals. While there are various sizes available, this specific range is especially designed to comfortably sit in the ears of kids or those with smaller ears, and are even endorsed by flight attendants for their effectiveness.
Moldex Drift to Sleep Earplugs
Made of soft foam finely tapered to fit into smaller ears, these earplugs are made to dull out any surrounding noises keeping you from sleeping, concentrating on work or merely preventing noise induced hearing loss (NIHL). Moldex earplugs don’t cause any discomfort to have on while you’re trying to sleep, and with cleaned out ear canals are safe to re-use, coming with a carrying case to hygienically store your in-use earplugs. The soft flexible foam fills out the spaces inside your ears without having to be jammed in or stuffed into the ear canal, making them perfect for use in sensitive ears.
Choosing the Best Earplugs for Small Ears
Earplugs can be a blessing when it comes to protecting your ears – but the wrong choice can do the opposite. Plugs which are overlarge or overlong can protrude from your ear and pose the risk of getting jammed in, which can rupture the fragile membrane of the eardrum and cause hearing problems.
There’s also the matter of hygiene, as ears are naturally constructed to trap dirt, and plugging them up can prevent the wax containing this dirt naturally exiting through the ear canal.
To reduce the likelihood of ear infection or damage, it’s best to choose earplugs made of a soft but resilient material, such as foam, which are tapered to fit into ear cavities without probing into the canal or needing to be forced in. It’s important to note that foam plugs generally do get dirty and need to be thrown out to prevent infection, but regularly cleaning out your ears can help you get better uses out of them.
The function you’re seeking from earplugs also determines the ideal type you should look for. While tapered foam plugs are better for giving you the peace and quiet you need to drift off or simply reduce the barrage of noise against your eardrums, they may not be as effective in keeping dirt or moisture out. Flexible silicone earplugs are better suited to wear for swimming and voiding off the risk of infections, while pressure-regulating plugs are the best used during flights to cope with the discomfort of sharp air pressure changes.