An Earplug is More than JUST an Earplug: Part III

By Dr. Toby Bateson

Toby pic for website, smallThe following is the third and final part of a series on earplugs, written by guest contributor  Toby Bateson, MD. Dr. Bateson is an Emergency Room Doctor in the UK as well as being the Managing Director of ZenPlugs Ltd.  He is the inventor of the ZenPlugs Molded Earplug System and Hammer Technologies AutoMat Rat Repellent For Cars.  He lives in Cornwall, UK, with his wife and two small children.  His website is here!



These are made from a soft paraffin wax with textile fibers mixed in to make the wax less crumbly. They are suitable for use in water, but cannot be connected with a lanyard.

– Advantages include comfort and effectiveness at keeping water and sound from the ears. They are less expensive than molded earplugs.

– Disadvantages include that they need to be remolded with each use, as the soft wax does not keep its shape. Residue may be left on clothing and upholstery. Hair, dirt, and other debris build up within the wax, which is a particular problem for users with long hair. The wax may break up, leaving small pieces in the ear canal.


Rubber earplugs are made of either silicon or some other flexible plastic material. They consist of a handle with surrounding soft rings that form a gentle seal. They can be vented to allow equalization of the air pressure on either side of the plug, making them suitable for use in airplanes and in other places when the air pressure changes because they prevent ear pain. This type can be connected with a lanyard.

– Advantages include effectiveness at excluding water from the ear, which makes them ideal for swimming, snorkeling, surfing and other watersports. They are washable, increasing the number of times they can be used, as well as making them more hygienic.

– Disadvantages include the protrusion of the handle, which causes discomfort for a user who is lying on their side in bed; this makes them unsuitable for use while sleeping. After a few uses the flanges often split and come off. Sometimes this type of plug may be uncomfortable, particularly if you have narrow or highly curved ear canals.

The main factors to consider when you are choosing earplugs are whether or not you will be using them in water or in bed, how often and how long you will be using them, and how much you want to spend. For infrequent and brief use out of water the cheaper foam type may be adequate. In water the slightly more expensive rubber, soft silicon or wax type will be necessary. If you use earplugs regularly or for prolonged periods of time then a more expensive molded pair would be ideal.

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