4 Different Alternatives to Ear Plugs

In instances when you need to block out the sounds around you to enjoy some peace and quiet, ear plugs are an easy solution. Ear plugs sit just inside of the ear cavity and minimize your ability to hear outside sounds. People everywhere count on ear plugs to get to sleep, reduce stress, and achieve a state of calm.

Ear plugs come in all different varieties. One of the most common types of ear plug is the disposable, one-size-fits-all variety that you can find at any drugstore. These ear plugs are inexpensive, sanitary, and a practical choice for many people.

Alternatives to Ear Plugs

For those seeking to invest in higher-quality ear plugs, you may get a pair from your doctor that’s custom fit for the size and shape of your ears. Custom-fit ear plugs are durable and will likely last for years to come.

People may choose to wear ear plugs for all different reasons. Sensitive or light sleepers often choose to wear ear plugs because outside sounds, such as street noise or a snoring partner, will wake them up or prevent them from falling asleep in the first place. Some people wear ear plugs on airplanes because the air pressure is painful. Swimmers often wear ear plugs to stop the pool water from getting in their ears. The list of reasons why individuals choose to wear ear plugs is, clearly, quite extensive.

If you find ear plugs highly uncomfortable, or if you struggle to find a pair that fits just right, there’s good news for you! Plenty of convenient alternatives to ear plugs exist and are available today. Ear plugs truly aren’t your only option when you need to tune out the sounds around you.

Listed below are four fantastic ear plug alternatives. Suitable for different scenarios, these alternatives can help protect your ears or reduce bothersome noises when you need relief from a sound. From your bedroom to an airplane to a tough day at the office, an ear plug alternative is one way to get a break from your hectic lifestyle.

1. Noise-canceling Headphones for Loud Environments

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Noise-canceling headphones are worn by a large portion of the population and for varying reasons. Most people enjoy this variety of headphone because it provides a superior listening experience; as these headphones block out background noise, the listener can fully enjoy their music, free from distractions.

Noise-canceling headphones can also serve as an ear plug alternative. Whether you’d like to listen to music or not, these headphones will keep outside sounds from reaching your ears, enabling you to relax, focus, or simply escape for a while.

Noise-canceling headphones have numerous benefits as an alternative to ear plugs. One of the main perks of this type of headphone is durability. A good quality pair of headphones will last for years to come, and most certainly longer than a pair of ear plugs. So, instead of having to repurchase ear plugs on a regular basis, you can buy one great pair of headphones and save several trips to the drugstore.

This type of headphone will give you an escape from the sounds of the outside world wherever you are, whether it be an airport, commuter train, or even a noisy office. What’s great about headphones is that many people wear them, so you’ll feel comfortable wearing a pair in public. Also, the freedom to listen to music with your headphones can make a hectic morning or evening commute far more enjoyable.

Over-ear noise-canceling headphones are constructed of a sturdy headband and earcups. This gives you the option to wear them around your neck at times when you need to hear what’s going on around you.

On the other hand, in-ear noise-canceling headphones are basically earbuds that include powerful noise cancellation technology. If you don’t mind the feeling of wearing ear buds, you may want to consider an in-ear headphone option. This type of headphone is often less expensive than over-ear options, as well as less bulky and more portable.

Ear plugs are small and easy to lose, so it isn’t as convenient to switch between wearing them and taking them out. Both over-ear and in-ear noise-canceling headphones are convenient to take on and off, and the odds of losing track of them in a public place are far lower than with ear plugs.

Noise-canceling headphones come in all different styles and at all different price points. While high-end options may cost a few hundred dollars, budget-friendly headphones do exist and are available from a wide selection of retailers. It’s in your best interest to shop around and find the perfect option for you; these headphones will hopefully last for a long time to come.

Shopping for noise-canceling headphones can quickly become overwhelming due to the huge array of brands to choose from. Here’s a list of leading brands offering top-quality headphones today:

  • Samsung
  • Bose
  • Sennheiser
  • Beats by Dre
  • Philips

2. White Noise Machine or Noise Maker for Better Sleep

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Many people choose ear plugs to block out disturbances as they sleep, but that’s not the only option. White noise machines can drown out those irritating sounds and help you fall more deeply into sleep. So, if you have a partner or roommate who snores, loud neighbors, a bed overlooking a noisy street, or sensitivity to all sounds when you sleep, you should consider a white noise machine as an ear plug alternative.

A white noise machine is a small, simple machine that’s often in the shape of a box. It may have a single or multiple sound settings, enabling you to turn on the noise with the push of a button. Sound machines can be purchased at online and in-person retailers such as Amazon.com, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

White noise machines often have many options for calming sounds to choose from. These sounds may include:

  • Rushing water, such as a waterfall
  • Rainfall
  • Thunderstorm
  • Rushing air or a fan
  • Wind
  • Rainforest sounds

Nowadays, you don’t even need to purchase a physical white noise machine. There are white noise apps that get the job done without the bulk and inconvenience of an actual machine. A noisemaker app is ideal for use when you’re traveling or on the go–it’ll come with you wherever you have your phone, tablet, or other smart devices. Apps are always being updated, too, so you may be able to enjoy new sounds and innovative features.

The main advantage of a white noise machine over ear plugs is comfort. If you sleep on your side, the plug in your ear on the pillow may dig into your skin at an uncomfortable angle. With a white noise machine, you can sleep in peace in your regular position. Plus, you won’t have to worry about an ear plug falling out in your sleep.

The disadvantage of white noise machines compared to ear plugs is that your ears aren’t protected against background noise; the machine simply works to mask it with other sounds. So, you may still be able to hear snoring, street noise, rowdy neighbors, etc., but in addition to the sound of the white noise machine. This downside, of course, depends on how heavily your sleep and the noise level in your bedroom.

3. Ear Muffs for Peace and Quiet Anywhere


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Ear muffs are traditionally used to protect your ears in cold weather but can also work effectively to block out background noise. Ear muffs are simply a headband with cushioned ear cups, often made from a thick fabric material.

There are also protective ear muffs that are specially designed to block sound from the ears. Protective ear muffs have ear cups made from a hard material, such as plastic. This type of ear muff is typically used in shooting ranges or on construction sites to protect against hearing damage from the loud sound of a gunshot, construction equipment, etc.

Some people choose to wear protective ear muffs at concerts in order to prevent hearing damage. As such, you can find them easily at popular online retailers, such as Amazon. Also called safety ear muffs, this product will, when worn, have a similar look and feel to noise-canceling headphones, just without the option to listen to music. Protective ear muffs are also more affordable than noise-canceling headphones. However, compared to ear plugs, protective ear muffs are the pricier option.

Ear muffs come in a huge variety of styles, materials, and designs. You can find the perfect type to suit your needs and lifestyle. Here are just a handful of the color options that safety ear muffs are available in:

  • Black
  • Lime Green
  • Bright Blue
  • Aqua
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Purple

Ear muffs are a great alternative to ear plugs for individuals who dislike the feeling of having something in their ear cavities. The in-ear design of ear plugs is uncomfortable for many, but ear muffs are worn outside of the ears. So, your ears will be protected against outside sounds without being blocked internally.

4. Sleep Mask with Ear Padding for Quiet Rest

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For a comfy ear plug alternative, you may want to reach for a sleep mask. Certain sleep masks are designed with ear padding to block out outside noise as you sleep. So, in addition to a peaceful respite from the sights around you, you’ll be able to sleep without sound disturbance.

Sleep masks come in an assortment of materials. From silk to jersey to cotton and more, you can easily find a product that suits your needs. Sleep masks with ear padding typically wrap around the head like a headband to fit securely throughout the night.

Compared to protective ear muffs and noise-canceling headphones, a sleep mask with ear padding is wonderfully affordable. It’s a great ear plug alternative for those who are on a budget and willing to try out new solutions to achieve better sleep.

Sleep masks that also protect the ears are a fantastic choice for peaceful sleep as you travel. Attempting to fall asleep on an airplane, for instance, can be quite the feat. But, while wearing a soft sleep mask that blocks out both the sights and sounds of the airplane, you may be able to get much-needed shut-eye. You may also find this ear plug alternative quite helpful in hotel rooms and other unfamiliar sleep settings.

Sleep masks with ear padding are preferable to ear plugs for comfort reasons. While ear plugs must sit inside of the ears, the sleep mask is worn over your ears. With a sleep mask, you don’t have to deal with ear plugs falling out as you sleep or otherwise becoming uncomfortable.

Taking into account the comfort provided by a sleep mask with ear padding, certain individuals may still prefer ear plugs. Ear plugs may be able to more fully block out sound than a sleep mask. Also, not everyone wants to have their eyes covered during sleep, making ear plugs a more appropriate choice.