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on December 7, 2010
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:

Noise isolation: 5/5
Comfort: 4/5
Price: 3/5
Appearance/style: 4/5

Noise isolation: 3/5
Comfort: 4/5
Price: 4/5
Appearance/style: 5/5

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. (I will update this post when I have some real information about this.)

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.

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.

If I missed anything you're curious about, leave a comment and I'll do my best to provide more information. Thanks for reading to the end!
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on September 9, 2007
As with the other revieweers, I use these for motorcycle riding, working with power tools, occasional shooting, and also for airplane trips. They do the job and are widely available in the U.S. if you forget yours. I will add some suggestions to the other reviews.

1. The only real complaint about these generally arises due to ear canal size and configuration. Before buying 200, pick up the retail package of six sets and try them out for size. These are available in most chain drug stores.

2. If they are too large, Leight has some other earplugs which may work better. If they are too small, try washing a pair among your clothes in a washing maching - just stick them in a pocket. This makes them puff up substantially.

3. To insert, roll the plug between thumb and forefinger of the hand on the same side as the intended ear. When the plug is about half its original diameter, slide it in the ear quickly. It may help to slide the opposite hand over your head and pull up on the ear as you insert the plug.

4. I find that these go in easily in the morning after a shower, but are more difficult to fit after lunch or in the evening. Any sort of lubrication that you don't mind having in your ear helps. A little spit works fine for me.

5. When you remove them, e.g. in the middle of the day for lunch, there will usually be earwax on the plugs. I usually just wipe that off with a napkin and re-use the plug for the afternoon's efforts. YMMV.

6. These can be re-used, but they're cheap enougn not to, especially if one buys in lots of 200. Keeping them clean helps. Ideally, one need not do this, but I may run short on a trip and I'd rather re-use them than do without. There is a risk of infection if one overdoes this.

7. I also use these when driving my truck with the windows down, but only one in the left ear.

Finally...even if you don't use these...hearing loss is cumulative, and it's not going to get any better as you age. If you don't use these, use something!
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on August 18, 2009
I have been using these ear plugs for the past few years, and I don't know how I got through a decade of marriage without them! My husband was quite the snorer... And I am a VERY light sleeper. The slightest little things wake me up. And I would be up alllllll night, nudging him back onto his side. His life improved, too, since he was allowed to sleep comfortably on his back without me pushing at him all night.

I can now sleep through all of those little things that used to wake me, AND the snoring! I recommend combining the earplugs with the use of a fan. I keep my floor fan on, facing away, and I am in my own little blissful quiet zone. Make sure that you follow the directions for using the earplugs or they may not work properly.

Advice for those who complained about the size: These generally come in three sizes. The higher the noise reduction rating, the larger the ear plug is, and more noise gets blocked out:

Smallest, with lowest noise reduction (But still pretty darn good!) : NRR30 Howard Leight Maxlite Uncorded Earplugs hearing protection 200 pair

Medium in size and NRR, and these are my favorites : NRR32 Howard Leight LL1 Laser Lite Uncorded Earplugs hearing protection 200 pair

For larger ear canals, and with the highest NRR of this brand/style : NRR33 Howard Leight Max-1 Uncorded Earplugs 200 pair
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on March 4, 2005
These are the best ear plugs I've ever used. Due to a medical condition, I have acutely sensitive hearing and have spent weeks at a time in the hospital. I literally am not able to sleep without them. These little guys are wonderful. Unlike the cylindical yellow competitors, the suface is smooth so my ears don't get sore. The shape is easy to insert, and makes it difficult to pierce your eardrum or just flat lose it in your ear.

My only problem with this product is that the smooth finish tends to stick in the ear when you get a bit sweaty or don't get your ears dry after you bathe.
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on March 4, 2008
Best earplugs made! These earplugs fit comfortably in the ears and do not cause pain after long periods of wearing them. I use these when I fly, they block out the jet noise really well, definitely better than the cheap earplugs they hand to passengers. Also great for a silent ride on commuter trains or subways.

I also use these to create a "silent space" when in public, if I need instant quiet, this is the best way achieve it. Great for people who like to study at coffeeshops, student unions, and other places where noise levels can vary from silent to rowdy. I also strongly recommend this for people who are easily distracted by ambient noise during exams or quizzes. I have a focusing problem, these definitely help in blocking out the sounds of other students' paper shuffling, chair shifting, etc, during exams.

Also, color is BRIGHT TRAFFIC CONE ORANGE! Not coral.
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on December 8, 2007
College dorms are not known as quiet places, and sometimes when you want to get some studying done there's a lot of distracting commotion outside. In my case, I also have a roommate who snores quite loudly. After trying some other brands of earplugs, these are definitely the most effective in terms of blocking out noise, and have the highest NR rating of any earplug, disposable or reusable.

Getting a proper seal can be a bit tricky. My process is as follows:

1. Lubricate your ear somehow, some people simply use spit, but I use lotion. Just put a tiny on your finger and rub it around the inside of your ear.
2. Roll each plug between index finger and thumb, they should compress nicely.
3. Grasp each plug by the flange and insert it pretty far into your ear. If you poke something that hurts, then pull it out a bit.
4. Continue holding the plugs in your ear until they fully expand. At this point again, if you feel any discomfort, pull it out a little.

You'll find that some noises are louder (chewing gum, breathing, footsteps) and that some noises penetrate anyway (such as low vibrations that transmit through bone conduction) but all in all they are excellent. Even though they are "disposable" they can be used more than once; as long as you don't have lots of earwax, you can probably use these 2-3 times or more without great detriment.

-They work really, really well
-Cheap bulk pack

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on January 5, 2006
I thought these would be a "little" better than the earplugs you buy in the drugstore.

These are so much better I cannot believe it. My neighbor's stereo is blasting and I hear NOTHING. I have to go over and touch the wall to feel the vibrations to see if they are still blasting the music.

Wow. Now I can get some sleep.
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on March 21, 2008
I live next door to people who keep two German Shepherd dogs in their backyard. The fact that these dogs bark loudly has resulted in many sleepless nights and much frustration for me. I realized that I needed a VERY effective pair of ear plugs. I tried several types of foam plugs and even purchased some of the expensive beeswax type, but found that none of them would mute the barking enough to allow me to sleep peacefully. I then purchased the Howard Leight Max-1 disposable ear plugs and couldn't believe what I WASN'T hearing. These little plugs really do the trick! When coupled with the electronic air filtration unit that provides ambient white noise in my bedroom, the faint sound of the barking dogs no longer keeps me awake! The only drawback to these plugs that I have experienced in the short time that I have owned them is that they cause minor discomfort in my ear canals after wearing them for several hours. Hopefully, this will subside after wearing them for several weeks. The plugs insert easily into the ear and form a perfect seal, however. These plugs are a bright pinkish-orange color which the manufacturer describes as coral. If you really need to BLOCK OUT sound, don't waste your money on other expensive types of ear plugs . . . try this amazing product. You won't be disappointed!
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on January 8, 2007
Excellent box of little orange ear plugs. It's great to have such a large stash around the house. I never need to worry about finding my little box of plugs since there always seem to be plenty around - in the motorcycle jacket pocket, in the garage, in the car...

They smoosh well, and block out a sensible amount of sound, and are more comfortable than other more cylindrical types.
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on April 30, 2013
These superb earplugs are effective even if you sleep adjacent next to a snorer of the greatest magnitude. In addition, if you are stuck next to noisy neighbors, these little gadgets may help you get a decent night's sleep. We unfortunately live below mini-Godzilla (with a lawyer-parent who defends Precious Snowflake). In the evening, the distraction is so obnoxious that we can hardly concentrate on reading. We resort to watching DVDs to tune-out the racket. At least we can sleep at night due to these amazing Howard Leight earplugs! Occasionally, after-midnight crashes (when Snowflake stumbles 'round drunk) are so loud we hear the racket despite all precautions. That is not due to any deficit with this product, just the vindictive noise-maker. Howard Leight earplugs are effective due to their excellent material and design, and the flare at the bottom. Highly recommended!
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