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on December 6, 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 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 at that realization. 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 $.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 $.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 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 Hearos Xtremes. Although they have the same NRR (33), the seal just didn't seem quite as tight, and I'm pretty sure this is the reason. Comparing the plugs side by side, the Super Leight seem 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 similar in their 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, which is almost certainly the reason. 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 made the same kind of 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 noise-blocking but much cheaper. If you want to do some of your own comparisons, 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 for yourself.

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 June 2, 2016
Sheesh, I wish I'd started using these years ago. Decades ago even. All the sleepless nights from snoring, barking dogs, rude neighbors, fireworks, rain storms, wind......... I could have slept through all of that!!! It takes some practice getting these inserted and you may need to experiment with which size will fit your ear best. I am a side sleeper and use just one in my "non-pillow" ear. That way, anything disturbing is blocked out but I can still hear the alarm clock. I seriously don't know how I lived before these earplugs.
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on July 27, 2016
I bought these for wearing at concerts. I'm not sure why it's so hard to find earplugs that are flesh toned and not some garish neon color.

These are softer and less irritating then other ear plugs I have used.

They are perfect for going to concerts or wearing to bed.

Not sure if they provided as much protection as other brands though so I probably stick with more substantial ear plugs if I needed them for intensive uses such as firearms or loud working conditions.
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on January 5, 2016
I have tried several brands of earplugs and none of them were nearly as comfortable as these. I seem to have small ears, since they're often sore after wearing earplugs overnight. But not these. Not only do they not hurt, they block out sound better than any others I've tried. If you need earplugs, especially if you'll be wearing them for long periods of time, I recommend trying these first. I know a lot of people have difficulty inserting earplugs, and I myself had sworn them off entirely after having once spent an uncomfortable half hour in a bathroom trying to get them in properly. Now I can do it at the speed of light, in the dark. One-handed. It's possible, I promise. Here's what I do:

1. Squish it! There's a reason everyone emphasizes this. As hard as you can, with all your fingers, squish and roll the earplug until it's as long, thin, and compact as you can get it. The idea here is that you're going to attempt "threading" it through your earhole. Don't spend a lot of time on this step though, because as soon as you squish it it will begin to expand. Just get it ready, and then...

2. Push it up there. As fast as you can, before it's expanded too much, guide the tip of the earplug into your ear canal, pushing it up as far as you can. Here's the key: at this point, it doesn't need to be in all the way. You just need the end to be firmly in place, so that when you push on it again your ear canal will condense the foam for you, instead of resisting. It's like stuffing a sock into a beer bottle. You wouldn't try to fit the whole sock in at once. You'd feed it in, bit by bit, making sure the force that you pushed it in with wasn't just crumpling the sock up against the mouth of the bottle, making the sock too wide to fit.

3. You can try pulling on your earlobe if you think you have to, but it's probably not necessary. All you really need to do is get a feel for the "direction" that you need to push the earplug in. Your ear canal does not travel into your skull at a 90 degree angle. You need to push it in, and then "up" a little, instead of straight in, or the plug will just smoosh against your ear canal and not go anywhere.

4. If you do all this and it goes in too far, don't freak out. I often have to GENTLY remove one or both of my earplugs with tweezers in the morning. Just grab a little bit of the end with the tweezers and slowly pull it out, being careful not to rip off what you're tweezing. On the other hand, if you follow all the steps and it doesn't work, keep trying. Everyone's ear canal is different, and the more you try the more you'll get a feel for the direction to push in, which is probably the issue.

Last thing: if you use these earplugs more than five times, wipe them with rubbing alcohol. In my opinion, they last much longer than is advertised, but you can get an ear infection from using the same ones over and over again. I use a little bit of isopropyl on a cotton ball every couple days.
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on November 5, 2015
Hands down my favorite ear plugs. I seriously can't even wear any others. I have small and sensitive ears, and these are my favorite ear plugs. I have them with me at all times when I am traveling. Maybe this is gross, but when I am traveling for months on end (in places that neither sell these nor can I get them shipped to said countries) I will use the same pair 2-4 times to make my stash last longer. ;)
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on September 6, 2015
I use earplugs almost daily. Either on the job, at home or loud environments. These are very comfortable and do a good job of blocking noise.

We recently saw Blue Man Group and while not rock concert loud it was nice to have these. Everyone from the kids to grandma had good results with these.

Read the instructions and learn how to properly insert and 'set' earplugs. It's a little more complicated than just shoving them in your ear.

The roll nicely and conform to fit. They take a little more time to expand than "spark plugs". My ear didn't feel over full and there was no pain like with some silicon flanged models.

I would recommend these for concerts, plane rides, and other noisy environments. Anywhere with constant noise.

I don't know if they'll work for impulse noise like firing ranges.

I suggest buying these and making friends at concerts by giving out a couple.
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on September 18, 2015
It squeezed to thinner diameter by fingers and once it put into ear it expands in 20 second.
It fits tight and blocks noise very well.
If it worn out, expansion time becomes 1 second which is not enough time to put it into ears.
So need to replace to new one. This box has bunch and could last in a year or two for me.

My neighbor at my apartment talk over phone till morning and I couldn't sleep.
It was not very loud so I didn't complain. Once I start using it I could sleep very very well.
I feel luck to use it before I move out.

Also I use it when my coworkers starts "stand up meeting" and start arguing.
For more noise blocking. Using it and on top using ear muff makes more noise reduction.
Almost no noise.

Noise canceling headphones are designed to pass voice. So this product works better than $300 Bose headphone.
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on September 18, 2015
These are the best and most comfortable ear plugs I've worn so far. I've tried many including Howard Leights and Pretty in Pink ear plugs but they were either too big and hurt my ear drums, or too slender and didnt block out noise. These earplugs are soft and squishy and don't hurt my ears in the morning. Granted they're not the best at preventing all noise, they're pretty good and muffling everything so you can try and go to sleep.
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on July 21, 2014
I would not have survived a summer of living with 8 people in a noisy household without these.

I had to be up early so going to bed was imperative to my happiness. I bought these on a whim.

It took me a few tries to come up with the perfect rolling technique. I would start the rolling at the tip and go out from there. That was helpful in having a smooth tip for inserting it into my ear. When inserting it, I would pull up on the top part of my ear, which would just help straighten out my ear canal for easy insertion. Then I would just keep a finger on the end pushing it slightly into my ear until it foamed out and filled the cavity.

They blocked out almost all loud noise. It was great and they were great. My only problem is that I tend to lose them, so its good that they come in such a large pack.

Would/will purchase again once I lose all of these ones.
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on June 4, 2015
I bought these after reading about them at slate dot com, who recommended them highly. What I like most about them is that the foam actually stays compressed long enough to put these into your ear. My other earplugs were driving me nuts because I would smoosh them down and then try to quickly get them into the ear before they expanded, which was very difficult. These will not give you that problem. I've only worn them to sleep and haven't tested them in other situations, so for that I will refer you to the slate article (http :// www. slate.com/articles/life/shopping/2005/05/the_sound_of_silence.4 dot html)

The Slate author, Ulrich Boser, rated these #1!!!

"Hearos Ultimate Softness Series Price: one pair for $1 NRR: 32

These plugs beat out the Howard Leight stopples for one reason: They are much softer and thus much more comfortable to wear. Like the Leight plugs, they are made of polyurethane and were easy to insert and clean. They could also play the sounds of silence: The loud, shrill noises were muted, the background noises inaudible. (Like the Leight plugs, heavy sleepers should use these plugs with care.) And while the ear-plug industry seems beset by terrible product names ("Snore Busters" and "Soft Blasts"), these plugs demonstrated, especially because they reduced the pounding sounds of the jackhammer to a pleasant thud, that it's worth holding out for Hearos.

Effectiveness: 9
Comfort/Ease of Use: 9
Durability: 9"
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