You only get one pair of ears, so it’s a good idea to look after them — and a good set of earplugs can come in handy in all kinds of situations. A proper set is a much better solution for blocking out noise during the night than a pillow over the head and is more comfortable than headphones. What you’re looking for in a set of earplugs really depends on what you want them to do. When you’re sleeping, for example, comfort is paramount. Plus, you need an indiscriminate approach to blocking out snores, traffic noise, or a car alarm down the street.
If you’re watching a band play live, though, you want to maintain as much fidelity as possible and just cut out the frequencies that might be harmful to your hearing. The average concert pumps out about 100 decibels, but if you’ve ever seen My Bloody Valentine, you’ll know some bands seem to have a personal vendetta against your ears — and continuous exposure to sounds over 85 dB can cause permanent damage to your hearing. That means it’s not really possible to pick out one pair of earplugs that’ll work in every situation. Instead, we’ve picked six pairs that satisfy different needs.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $ 5 ($ 25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.