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Living on my own has been good — great, even — and I’ve put a lot of time into my new apartment (with a bookcase, for example, and some mounted shelves). But there’s a downside to the specific back-of-the-building Brooklyn apartment I’ve chosen that only became apparent with time: noise that necessitates earplugs at night.
From footsteps in the apartment above mine to the din in my apartment’s backyard — where once or twice a week I can hear Brooklyn Heights teens clamoring, drinking and bonding around a fire pit — I often found myself with my eyes wide open, awake at 11:30 p.m. when I have to wake up a mere six-and-a-half hours later to start my morning.
I tried using a white noise machine. That didn’t work — while it dimmed the noise, I needed something that would definitively block the outside noise from my ear canal, not just dull it. I decided to look into something a little more old-fashioned. I decided to check out earplugs. Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs showed tens of thousands of positive reviews — a 4.5-star average rating across more than 36,000 customer reviews, to be exact — and they promised a solid amount of noise-canceling with good comfort and a nice tan color.
After wearing them once, I was hooked.
They really managed to block out all of the noise inside (and outside) my apartment and let me sleep peacefully. Plus, they were hardly noticeable in my ears. Now they’re as normal to my routine as shutting off the lights. When Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs are lodged in my ears, I can barely hear what’s happening outside my windows. Though I don’t have any experience using them for this purpose, I bet they’d be great if you have a snoring bed partner or you want to wear them while mowing the lawn or enjoying a loud concert.
Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs have a Noise Reduction Rating (or NRR) of 33 decibels. For those unfamiliar with the NRR — who haven’t spent as much time as I have digging into this in the middle of the night, exhausted, brow furrowed and staring at my phone glowing in the otherwise pitch black apartment — it’s a measure of the effectiveness of a hearing protection device to reduce noise. NRR values, according to Listen Technologies, range up to approximately 30 decibels, which means the Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs are about as intense as it goes at 33 decibels.
They’re also reusable. Though they come with 50 pairs, or 100 individual earplugs, there’s no reason you can’t use them more than once. I’ve been using my current stash of Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs since the beginning of May. I just counted them now, and I’ve only tossed about 20 earplugs, which means I still have around 40 pairs left. For less than $10, and considering how frequently I use them — nearly every night of the week — this is virtually a steal.
Sometimes, earplugs aren’t enough, though. When my neighbors get really loud, I insert my earplugs and double down with my noise-isolating Bluetooth headphones. (I usually put on one of Spotify’s white noise playlists to help, too.) But that doesn’t happen a ton.
Other earplugs to consider
Whether you’re looking for a pair of earplugs that are made from putty to mold to your ear or you want to invest in a pair of earplugs that look primed for your Instagram story, these two options come highly rated across a variety of price points.
Not only does Mack’s make “ultra soft” foam earplugs, it makes “pillow soft” silicone earplugs, too. (Someone test them both and tell me if they can spot a difference.) First invented in 1962, the Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs are made from putty, which means they can fit into the unique contours of any ear, according to the company. That said, they only account for a NRR of 22 decibels, 11 decibels weaker than the hardcore Ultra Softs that I love. They come in a six-pack. The Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs come with 4.3 star average rating across more than 33,000 customer reviews.
If Instagram were to give birth to a pair of earplugs, the silicone Loop Quiet Earplugs would be it. While Mack’s were invented in 1962, the Loops feel aggressively 2022-esque. Their advertising is almost sexy, with an Elizabeth Holmes-looking model showing off how to use the Loop Quiets next to a list of how they work: to “disconnect,” “peace,” “comfort,” “environment” — buzzwords that literally don’t mean anything unto themselves. I digress. The Loop Quiet earplugs have an NRR of 27 decibels, and unlike options from Mack’s, they come in four sizes (from XS to L) and six different colors, as well as with a carry case. The Loop Quiet earplugs come with a 4.2 star average rating across more than 21,000 customer reviews.