An audiologist might be the next best thing to a couple’s therapist. It is true, I have been known to save relationships. How, you ask? Well, my superpower is helping partners sleep through the night without hearing the sweet symphony of their loved one’s snoring through well-fitting sleep plugs. These custom plugs function to reduce surrounding noise (such as a partner’s snoring, environmental sounds) as one sleeps. To be clear, if the noise that is keeping you up at night is tinnitus, sleep plugs do not aide with reducing tinnitus. In fact, if one is experiencing tinnitus and wears sleep plugs, this may exacerbate the tinnitus as tinnitus thrives in quiet and is dulled with the introduction of surrounding sound as a masking effect.
Earplugs for sleep have so much to do with the earmold impression and how they are ordered, perhaps more than the actual earmolds ordered. Let me break that down. Ear canals are not a one-size-fits all. They are funny like that sometimes. They can be too bendy, too straight, and/or too narrow for the average foam tipped earplug bought from the pharmacy, or for earbuds such as AirPods. Your right and left ear canals are not even identical in shape, length, and size. For this reason, the earmold impressions that an audiologist takes of ear canals is super important. Ear impressions are taken of both ears to order custom earmolds that are made to essentially “fit like a glove.” The two-part silicone impression material has to be of a specific viscosity (more viscous than not). Additionally, the first and second bend of the ear canals have to be included and accounted for on the impression so that when an earmold is made in the lab, a proper seal (of the ear canal) is created. Additional other landmarks of the ear, such as the concha (bowl) of the outer ear and all the way up to the helix (top most portion of the ear) must be identified on a hardened ear impression.
Considerations for a good custom earplug:
A good seal. If they are seated in your ears and there is a gap in the ear canal or concha or higher up near the anti-helix, they are not sealed and you will therefore hear your partner’s snoring.
Soft silicone material for comfort as you sleep.
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 25dB (decibels) minimally
Solid plugs. No filters.
Sleep plugs we have loved to order for our patients include:
Microsonic Lifeplugs Sleep Earplugs: NRR 25dB, Mean 39dB, soft silicone hypoallergenic.
Sensaphonics Sleep Canal Earplugs: NRR 26 dB, soft silicone.
Starkey Canal or Solid Sleeping Plugs: NRR of 27dB, soft silicone
Westone Sleep Plugs: NRR 24-27 dB, average attenuation 37-39 dB depending on material. Style 40-4. Materials: Formula II, Formula II Clear, Rx, Superflex, W-1, Otoblast.
The plugs listed above usually run $250-350 for the set, including the ear impressions taken at your local audiologist’s office.
To get the most out of a sleep plug, look up your local audiologist and get ear impressions taken for custom molds. The average turnaround time for a set to be ordered, completed at the lab, and returned back to the audiologist’s office is now about three weeks. He or she will briefly demonstrate how to properly insert them. Once they’re in, get ready for those zzz’s! A peaceful night’s sleep never felt so good!