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on December 19, 2015
I have LOVED these for years but they recently changed their design and I will no longer purchase them. They used to be smaller and denser and bullet shaped and would fully expand in the ear canal so that they really offered amazing noise reduction. They now are these huge, slug shaped blue blobs that are as slushy soft as marshmallows. They don't conform to your ear canal and they don't even fit in your ears. They also offer virtually no noise reduction at all. I am very disappointed in this new design and can't imagine why they changed it. I've posted two photos of the new and old version so you can see how it's changed.

PLEASE Hearo's people -- bring back your original design so we can sleep soundly again!
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on December 7, 2010
UPDATE: I no longer recommend cutting the plugs with scissors to shorten them for comfortable sleeping. Instead, go to YouTube and search for a video called "Fitting Foam Earplugs" by user aearoweb to learn how to properly insert plugs all the way into your ear canal, which will eliminate the need to cut them.

UPDATE: Amazon is now offering these for about $0.12/pair, which makes them one of the cheapest options available!

I got a little carried away comparing different brands/models of ear plugs this past week and thought I'd share my experience here. Of the following three, the Hearos Xtreme Protection are my favorite. If the length of this review looks daunting, just skip the rest and take a look at the three kinds of plugs I tried and my overall assessment of their key characteristics:

HEAROS XTREME PROTECTION
Noise isolation: 5/5
Comfort: 4/5
Price: 3/5
Appearance/style: 4/5

HEAROS ULTIMATE SOFTNESS
Noise isolation: 3/5
Comfort: 4/5
Price: 4/5
Appearance/style: 5/5

HOWARD LEIGHT "SUPER LEIGHT" (same model as MAX1)
Noise isolation: 4/5
Comfort: 5/5
Price: 5/5
Appearance/style: 3/5

I decided I needed some ear plugs after being at my wits' end from having to constantly listen to the low rumbly bass of my neighbor's stereo. It's not that it's that loud--but at any volume, constant repetition of a few single low-frequency notes really drives me crazy. I went over and knocked on the door, but no one answered; I'd bang on the wall and they'd turn it down, only to turn it up again half an hour later. I even tried expensive noise-canceling headphones (Audio Technica ATH-ANC7B Active Noise-Cancelling Closed-Back Headphones) and even though they helped, they didn't eliminate the noise.

After reading many positive reviews, I opted for Hearos Xtreme Protection. They have an NRR (noise reduction) of 33, which is the highest I could find in a plug I could afford. I even checked the attenuation data on the back of the package and saw that the decibel reduction was, quizzically, even higher at the low frequencies I was hoping to eliminate. I purchased them and went home and promptly inserted a pair into my ears, which was easier than I expected. I have seen a lot of comments about how they are difficult to get the hang of inserting, but it's really a piece of cake. Just don't skip the part in the instructions about pulling on the top of your ear with your other hand, because that does make it easier to get the plug in all the way. As I heard the second plug crinkling gently as it expanded, I could almost feel the air being sucked out of my ear and a layer of silence emerging. Suddenly I was off in my own world where I could hear only my breathing and the faintest muffled sounds from outside. Once they were fully expanded, I was surprised at how comfortable they were. They exert only a slight pressure on my ears, but it's not annoying at all. My neighbor was not playing music at the time, so I couldn't test their effectiveness against it. However, several hours later I found out from my girlfriend, who had gotten home and been sitting at her own computer (in the same room) for the previous hour, that the neighbors had been playing music for quite a while. I never knew because the Hearos were doing their job that well! Tears almost came to my eyes. A caveat, though: I have another neighbor with a deafeningly loud car stereo that shakes everything in my apartment. I'm not sure these plugs will get rid of that kind of volume, but then again, I haven't heard his stereo at all since I've been wearing them. UPDATE: I have long since moved--and that solved the problem! I was never able to effectively test them against the jerk's car stereo, because he generally only played it as he was coming or going (still very frequent). This didn't give me the chance to get the plugs, insert them properly, test to see if I could hear it, and remove them before the noise was gone. However, I can't recall ever hearing bass with the plugs in over the last two years.

After such a successful experiment, I decided to sleep in them. I could feel them when I was on my side, but they were not uncomfortable--just there. (I later discovered, thanks to some other reviews here on Amazon, that you can simply cut the end off of the plugs with scissors, which does not affect their sound-blocking abilities in the least.) Coupled with the fan on my window unit, I couldn't hear a thing outside of the room. No annoying neighbors, cars, or anything...I didn't wake up once. I used that first pair for about 4 days, and could have used them longer--you could wear the same pair for a week with no problem. About the only con to these plugs are the fact that they are bright blue and a bit long (though, as I mentioned, they can be cut), which means they're not exactly discreet. But if you're anything like me, you don't really care what you look like in these things as long as you don't have to listen to other people's noise. Also, and more relevant for me, is the price. At about $0.60/pair in small quantities, they are the most expensive of the three. However, they are significantly cheaper if you buy them in bulk here on Amazon, especially if you are a Prime member and can get free shipping--this brings the price down to a much more reasonable $0.35/pair or so (see updated pricing info at the top of the review).

I decided, "wow, if the first kind of plugs I tried were so great, what about the others?" Since Howard Leight Max plugs also have great reviews on Amazon, I picked some up at a local C/V/S (sold as "Super Leight" in a package of 10 pairs). While I found them to be very easy to insert and extremely comfortable, they didn't seem to offer quite as much noise isolation as the Xtremes. Although they have the same NRR (33), the seal just didn't seem quite as tight. A side-by-side comparison revealed the Super Leights to be just a tad smaller in diameter. As a result, they are easier to remove, which I consider a con because I would rather have earplugs stay put. However, if your ears are smaller than mine, you might find the Howard Leight's just as good, if not better, at reducing outside noise, and they would probably be more comfortable as well. Just be aware that they are hunting-jacket orange, so they are even less discreet than the Hearos XP's. However, they are the cheapest of the three plugs--if you buy 200 pair on Amazon (sold as MAX1, but I'm pretty sure it's the same plug), it brings the price down to just a dime or so per pair! Because these plugs seem to be of similar construction to the Hearos XP, you should be able to get at least a week's worth of wear out of these plugs as well--so you're set for four years!

Just for the heck of it, I figured I might as well try the Hearos Ultimate Softness too (another plug well regarded by Amazon reviewers). Although they were comfortable, the seal was not very tight at all and they didn't seem to block nearly as much noise as the Xtremes or the Super Leights. (When I compared them side by side with the Xtremes, I realized how much smaller in diameter the Ultimate Softness are.) They are, however, the most discreet of the bunch. They barely stick out of my ears at all, and they blend in better with my skin tone--of course, they may not blend in with yours. It would be nice if they offered the same plugs in different colors, but manufacturers probably think it would be more confusing for the consumer. They are a little cheaper in the drugstore than the XP, but in bulk they become quite a bit cheaper at about $0.25/pair.

Since noise-blocking is by far the most important feature for me, I'm going to stick with the Hearos Xtreme Protection. Don't take my experience as gospel, but if you have average to large ear canals (which I'm not sure how to figure out, but I figure mine must be of the larger variety), you will probably find the Xtremes to be the best noise blockers. If price is your main concern, go with the Howard Leights, which are almost as good at blocking noise but much cheaper. If you want to compare for yourself, Hearos will send you a free sample if you fill out a form on their website. If you don't want to wait 6-8 weeks, you can go to your local drugstore and spend about $10-$11 and pick up a few different brands.

Thanks for reading to the end!

UPDATE: This review has engendered a fairly long comments section. I'm no expert on otology (I just happen to have heard of the word), but I will try to answer any questions you have about the plugs I've reviewed here for all those seeking peace and quiet!
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on March 4, 2009
I had been using Hearos' Ultimate Softness series earplugs for sleeping, which were good, but the Xtreme Protection series has them beat for both comfort and noise blocking. They are slightly thicker and softer than the Ultimate Softness earplugs, but are just as easy to roll up and insert, if you follow the directions. (And unlike the Pretty in Pink series, they do not expand before you can manage to fit them into your ear.) The Xtreme Protection earplugs have eliminated the uncomfortable pressure that I occasionally experienced with the Ultimate Softness series, and seem to block out noise a little bit better. I recommend these for quiet and comfort.

If you're using this type of earplug for the first time, don't be discouraged---it takes a little time and practice to get the hang of inserting them properly for the best results. Stick with it, and you'll be rewarded with more comfortable sleep.
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My significant other snores, so I've become an expert on ear plugs.

I have tried quite a few of them and Hearos Xtreme Protection is among them. Below is a summary of my experiences with different ear plugs. I hope you will find it useful. Other then the noise protection, the important factors for me are : if the plugs stay in your ear, and if they are breathable (some of them made my ear canals hot and sweaty, that makes them itch, and itching wakes me up).

* Hearos ear plugs, Xtreme protection Series, 33 decibels. Hearos have a good size, not too long and not too short. They are slightly shorter than Flent Quiet time, so they don't stick out of my ear, and this means they don't catch the pillow and don't get pulled out. They are firmer than Hearos ultimate softness so they provide more noise protection. Overall they are comfortable, but I find that my ear canal gets hot and sweaty using them. This makes them itch, and needing to itch wakes me up.

* Hearos ear plugs,ultimate softness, 32 decibels. Hearos have a good size, not too long not too short. They are slightly shorter than Flent Quiet time, so they don't stick out of my ear, and this means they don't catch the pillow and don't get pulled out. They are also slightly softer, and provide a little less protection. Overall they are comfortable, but I find that my ears get hot and sweaty using them.

* Flents Quiet Contour, molded foam, 33 decibels.
This is my favorite ear plug. It gives me the best noise protection, it stays in the ear very well, it is comfortable, my ear canal does not get hot and itchy. I find the most comfortable. (see attached photo)

* Flent Quiet Time, comfort foam, 33 decibels. I like these earplugs less thant Quiet Contour because it does not seem to stay in my ear as well. The ends of the foam seem to stick out and catch on the pillow when I turn, catching the end on the pillow pulls them out of my year. I got it to stay in the ear better by trimming about 3/8th of an inch. Because they tend to fall out, I don't get as good of a sleep in them. However, when they are in the sound protection is good.

* Mack's pillow soft earplugs (sillicone), 22 decibels. These earplugs did not work for me at all. They did not provide enough sound protection, my ear canal got hot and sweaty and itchy, and they also tend to fall out.

For me Flents Contour ear plugs win on all counts - noise protection, comfort, staying, breathability.
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on October 19, 2015
Just horrible! I have ordered this product in the past and it was fine. This time the little pieces came all deformed. I tried to request an exchange within 30 days and it said not allowed. Beware!!! Bottom one is a picture of an old normal plug. Too is the new deformed one. Some fall apart in-between your fingers.
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on December 31, 2015
I have used these earplugs for years and they were the best on the market. They have changed them and they are no longer very effective. They don't work nearly as well as the previous design. The new design has a rounded back, the surface is not as smooth and they are softer. See photo - the one on top is the new version, bottom is the old version. They're pretty much useless now and I'll be looking for a better alternative.
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on February 16, 2015
I have been wearing ear plugs for over 8 years now, up until a few months ago I always wore the Mac earplugs and have never had a problem. A few months ago I decided to purchase these and give them a try. They we're ok for a while until a few weeks ago when my ear started to hurt. I went to urgent care and the doctor said part of an earplug had ripped off and lodged itself deep in my ear canal. He actually said it was because I used cheap earplugs and not to use the brand again. He tried three times to get it out using a long suction tube, after hitting my ear drum and causing me to sob in pain, it finally came out by pouring hydrogen peroxide down my ear. I was responsible about wearing these, I used a new pair with each use and didn't shove them in too far. Now I'm stuck with a $220 dollar medical bill and a ringing in my ear. I have attached a photo of the piece that was lodged in my ear and my medical bill.
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on March 22, 2007
I lived in the East Village in Manhattan, with a bedroom that faced onto a busy street and a flatmate who loved watching TV at extraordinary volumes late into the night. I tried many different earplugs, and these were the ones that let me sleep through the night. They're fantastic at blocking sound, they don't fall out like some smaller-profile plugs, and they don't hurt the ear canal the way some large plugs can. Highly recommended. The larger pack is nice because, like all disposable earplugs, these do get less effective (and somewhat gross) after a couple of nights' use.
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on January 8, 2016
I've been buying those for years. All the sudden it's a completely different product. Why change something that was working. It's actually not working at all now. I doesnt block any noise anymore . it's more like a 5db muffler. seriously disappointed in the change.
some of the buds came even torn.
left is how it used to be. right is new terrible product
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VINE VOICEon March 23, 2010
I live in Uganda, in east Africa. Zoning laws? Say WHAT? You can find an all-night bar opening just down the road from your home (yes, there's one just 4 houses down). It's a rare hotel that's quiet--and I travel a lot. Thin walls, noisy bar, trucks, cars, call to prayer at 5 am, and motorcycles zipping past at all hours. Hotel life used to be, to put it mildly, quite annoying.

Ah, that was before my little blue Hearos. I would pay the price of a full pack for a single pair. There are other earplugs out there, but none like Hearos X-treme. Very soft and comfy. They roll up small and expand slowly, so you have plenty of time to get them in your ears. In the 30 seconds that they take to expand, sounds fade, then disappear altogether. I'm enveloped in a cocoon of blissful silence. Just knowing all of that noise is out there and can't touch me makes me sleep all the better.

Some other nice features...if you are cheap like me or don't want to re-order, you can wash them in rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits, squeeze them out in a dry washcloth, and they're as good as new after a few hours to dry out. I've yet to wear out a pair.

Have tiny ears? So does my wife. We just got some good scissors and pruned them down to size for her. And, they won't tear. I've put some other earplugs a bit deep in my ear, and when grabbing a corner to pull them out, they would break off. Not the Hearos Xtremes.

On the downside--no earplug can stop an ultra-low, ultra-loud sub-woofer. Thankfully, the one from the bar down the road booms, but not excessively at those frequencies. But I have had the experience coming from a hotel bar--and at that point the only thing to do is ask them politely to turn it down.

This is one of the cheapest ways to dramatically improve your life if you live or travel to noisy places, or live in one. I keep a pair permanently in my travel bag, and another on my bedside table. Sweet dreams!
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