Ear protection has long been used to guard against hearing damage in loud settings – concerts, shooting ranges, construction sites, etc. Autism, sensory processing disorder, migraine, and fibromyalgia are among a number conditions which can cause sensory sensitivity to noise in both adults and children, and in these cases, ear protection can help the user better cope.
Ear protection isn’t just for people who work in loud settings or those with noise sensitivity, either. If you sleep with a snorer or someone who leaves the tv on all night, live in a neighborhood with a lot of outside noise, have difficulty filtering out noises, or just need some peace and quiet, you may also benefit from ear protection.
As a sensory sensitive person who identifies with all of the above, I know it is important to have the right ear protection, and not all plugs are created equal or work the same. Below I describe several available options and then share with you my personal favorite solution.
- Wax earplugs: While they mold to your ears well, they are sticky and longer hair can get caught in them.
- Foam earplugs: These are lightweight, inexpensive, and popular. But foam plugs are often difficult to get adjusted just right, they make a crinkling sound in your ear as you move, and some people don’t like the feeling of them in their ears.
- Fancy ear protection plugs: They look like little earbuds. They were very difficult for me to adjust, did not provide enough sound blocking, and were uncomfortable.
- Hunting headphones: These can be purchased wherever noise protection headphones are sold. They provide nice sound deadening, however, they can become uncomfortable after wearing them for a period of time. Also, not everyone wants to walk around with large headphones on their ears, and they don’t work well for sleeping.
- Noise-canceling headphones (such as Bose or Beats): These provide nice hearing protection, especially if you are listening to music at the same time. There is nothing sticking in your ear. However, they can be uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. For people who are sensitive not just to noise but also to pressure, the headphones start to dig into the top of your head after a while and press on your ears. They are best for short periods of time, such as on an airplane flight, but are not comfortable for longer periods of time.
- Mighty Plugs (My Favorite!): These are made of wax AND clay so they mold to your ears but are not sticky, and can be split into whatever size ball you need. They are reusable over and over again and come in a handy clear carrying case to keep them safe and clean. Mighty Plugs are discreet and do not move once they are in your ears – no crinkling sound or readjustment needed – and once they are in your ears you can not feel them. They are comfortable for overnight wear.
But the number one reason I like Mighty Plugs? They actually work! They minimize the sound of everything so you can sleep, focus, tolerate crowds or concerts, sit next to the loud chewer, or filter out noises, but you CAN hear your alarm clock ringing, the fire alarm, or the telephone. At a concert, you can hear the singing but not all that treble and base that can be over-stimulating.
I have tried dozens of hearing protection options over the years, from the most simple to the deluxe pairs. The brand I keep coming back to is Mighty Plugs. If you take care of them they will last forever.
No one solution is perfect for everyone, but from someone who is sensitive to sound and touch (as well as everything else), Mighty Plugs have been the best solution for me.
Victoria Wood, OTR/L