What Are the Best Earplugs for Pilots?

Editor’s note: The following article is not intended to be a ranking, but is only to serve as a list of possible options. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Pilots, more so than the majority of the population, are at a higher risk of hearing damage because they operate in noisy environments. To protect their ears, many pilots opt to use earplugs while on the ramp and in the cockpit. Below are FLYING’s suggestions for the best earplugs for pilots. 

Quicklook: Best Earplugs for Pilots

6 Best Earplugs for Pilots Options

Choosing the right earplugs for you is important for comfort and functionality. Things to consider are sizes, noise reduction rating (NRR), and reusability. 

Mack’s Original Soft Foam Earplugs

Mack’s Original Soft Foam Earplugs are super soft and easily insertable into the ear. 

Best for: Everyday earplug wearers

Size options: One size

Noise reduction rating (NRR): 32 dB

Reusable: Yes, good for three uses

Case: No

Special features:

  •  Made in the U.S. with safe, high-performance, noise-canceling foam
  •  Plastic jar is safety-sealed and features a convenient flip-open top

Disadvantages: 

  • Only reusable for a few times
  • One size may be too big for small ears.

Alpine FlyFit Airplane Pressure Relief Earplugs 

The Alpine FlyFit Airplane Pressure Relief Earplugs are perfect to relieve pressure and block noise while in an airplane. The earplugs regulate pressure like a valve to increase comfort. While the earplugs reduce ambient noise, having a conversation with these earplugs is also possible. 

Best For: Pilots flying frequently

Size Options: One size

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 17 dB

Reusable: Yes

Case: Yes

Special Features

  •  Reusable hypoallergenic material designed to adapt to your ear canal
  •  100 percent recyclable

Benefits:

  • Does not contain any silicone
  • Easy to clean

Disadvantages:  

  • Only one size 

Decibullz-Custom Molded Earplugs

Sometimes the best options for earplugs are to make your own. These custom Decibullz-Custom mold earplugs rank high among pilots because of their customizability and comfort. 

Best For: Comfort seekers

Size Options: Custom to fit your ear. Small, medium, and large flange tips are included. 

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 31 dB

Reusable: Yes

Case: Yes

Special Features

  •  Manufactured in the U.S.
  •  Multiple colors

Benefits: 

  •  Completely customizable 
  •  High NRR
  •  Can be remolded at any time

Disadvantages: 

  •  Must be molded correcting with a seal to achieve noise cancellation
  •  Not designed to be able to have conversations while using

SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus

SureFire earplugs are designed with comfort in mind. Available in three sizes and featuring a low-profile design compatible with radio communication, SureFire EP4s may be the best earplugs for pilots overall. 

Best For: Pilots using over-the-ear headsets

Size Options: Small, medium (medium fits most) and large. They cater to larger ears.

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 24 dB

Reusable: Yes

Case: Yes

Special Features:

  • Two levels of protection with filter caps in or out
  • Low-profile design allows for a headset to be worn over the ear, perfect for use with most pilot headsets.
  • Multiple colors

Benefits: 

  •  Hypoallergenic
  •  Compatible radio communication systems

Disadvantages: 

  • Designed for large ears
  • Midrange NRR

EarPlanes Earplugs

For both pilots and passengers, EarPlanes may be the best earplug to offer relief against pressure changes. The corkscrew designs allow for the ear to adjust more slowly to the change in pressure and prevent the uncomfortable popping sensations. EarPlanes are designed with both adults and children in mind. 

Best For:  Adults and children who fly frequently, including as passengers

Size Options: Children and adult

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 24 dB

Reusable: No

Case: Yes 

Special Features

  • Tested by U.S. Navy pilots and approved by flight attendants
  • Earplanes + App allows for cabin pressure tracking to know when to use earplugs

Benefits

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Snug fit

Disadvantages: 

  • Single use

Targeal Earplugs

If you are looking for a simple-to-use and comfortable earplug that has a high NRR, Targeal earplugs may be perfect for you. Made with ultra-soft foam and designed with all ear sizes in mind, Targeals provide high noise cancellation and are reusable. 

Best For: Those looking for high NRR

Size Options: One size

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 33 dB

Reusable: Yes

Case: Yes

Special Features:

  • Simple, easy to use design 
  • Made from ultra-soft foam

Benefits: 

  • Latex-free and PVC-free
  • Suitable for small ears

Disadvantages: 

  •  Not adaptable to all ear types

Why Do Pilots Need Hearing Protection? 

Pilots need hearing protection because the sound levels within the cockpit can reach between 80 to 95 dB. Sounds at or below 70 dBA are generally considered safe. Any sound at or above 85 dBA is more likely to damage your hearing over time, therefore pilots should wear hearing protection.

Silicone Earplugs vs Foam Earplugs

Depending on what the earplugs are being used for, you may have to decide between silicone or foam ear plugs. Foam earplugs provide more noise reduction than silicone ones. Silicone ones, because they block less sound, are great for users who want to be able to carry on a conversation while wearing them. 

What to Consider With Premade Earplugs for Pilots

When picking a premade earplug design, decide what is most important to you: noise cancellation, comfort, or functionality.

Material

Foam earplugs provide a high level of comfort and noise cancellation, but it’s hard to carry on conversations while you wear them. Silicone earplugs offer medium noise canceling, which gives the opportunity to complete audible tasks and have a conversation. Many users say foam and silicone earplugs have the same comfort level. 

Comfort

Comfort is very important when picking an ear plug, especially if they will be worn frequently. Ensuring the right fit can make a huge difference in the ability to wear earplugs for an extended period of time. For ultimate comfort, try moldable earplugs. 

Reusable

By choosing reusable earplugs, you can save a little money without compromising NRR or comfort. Reusable earplugs are also great for reducing waste.

Price

Premade earplugs are generally within the same price range. Earplugs can cost between $10 to $25 depending on the number of pairs in the pack or if they are reusable. 

What is a NRR?

A noise reduction rating (NRR) is a measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment. The NRR is usually measured in decibels (dB). For more information on why hearing protection is important in the cockpit click here. 

Earplugs are an essential part of any pilot’s flight bag. Choosing the right pair to fit your needs and comfort level while you fly is just the first step to healthy hearing protection. Use this guide to help compare and contrast the available earplugs for pilots, and to stay up to date on all things aviation subscribe to FLYING Magazine. 

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