The best alternative to earplugs for sleeping is dependent on the reason you require an alternative. If your ears are easily irritated by foam, using materials such as wax and silicone may be a sufficient solution. If you don’t want anything in your ear, using earmuffs, sleeping masks with ear pads, or noise-canceling headphones may be a better option. If outside noise is your primary concern, taking soundproofing measures is a likely solution.
Are you searching for the best alternative to earplugs for sleeping, but not sure whether to use earbuds, headphones, or white noise for sleep? Just to clarify, because there can often be some confusion, I consider earplugs to be used for protection and noise reduction, while earbuds are used to listen to music and possibly drown out unwanted sound.
This post will be split into four major sections, based on the key reason you’re searching for an alternative to earplugs;
- Blocking out unwanted noise
- Playing music or a soothing sound without wearing something on your head
- Over the ear alternative to earplugs for sleeping
- In-ear alternative to foam earplugs for sleeping
One reason you may be seeking an alternative to earplugs for sleeping is your concern over health and safety. Although earplugs can increase your sleep quality and are generally safe to use, it’s important to consider some potential health risks and ways to minimize those risks.
Ear Wax Buildup
When using earplugs, ear wax (cerumen) can be pushed back into your ear leading to a buildup over time (earwax impaction). A buildup of earwax that is left untreated can lead to decreased hearing, ear pain, itching, and ringing in your ear. To avoid earwax buildup, it is recommended to regularly clean your earplugs. However, also be mindful of over-cleaning, which could lead to infection, irritation and actually cause the buildup you’re trying to avoid.
Bacteria can grow on foam earplugs and using sticky earplugs can transfer bacteria into your ear from your fingers. It is important to frequently change your earplugs, especially if you notice they are starting to discolor, become sticky or quickly return to full size after you release pressure.
Alternative To Earplugs For Sleeping: Blocking Out Unwanted Noise
If the main reason you require an alternative to earplugs for sleeping is to block out unwanted noise at night, you have two possible approaches; drown out the sound, or decrease the volume of sound entering the room. You may have excess noise from traffic, neighborhood noise or have loud sounds from an adjoining wall (neighbors or roommates).
The first and by far the cheapest option is to use white noise to drown out unwanted noise that makes its way into your bedroom.
What is white noise and why should I use white noise for sleep?
White noise is a sound that is created by combining all of the different frequencies of sound at once, playing at equal intensity. When there is a change in sound, you can become distracted from that clash, especially if you are trying to sleep. White noise consistently drowns out those sudden changes, making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Why using white noise is a great alternative to earplugs for sleeping?
Using white noise for sleep is a great alternative to earplugs because it removes the discomfort of wearing something in or over your ear. Although earplugs can help lower sound levels, they may decrease comfort levels around your ear and head. Also, wearing earplugs may only reduce the volume of clashing sounds, rather than drowning them out.
Generating white noise for sleep
The two main ways to generate white noise for sleep are to use a white noise generator, or to use your phone. White noise generators such as the Sound+Sleep SE , can play a myriad of sound frequencies, including pink noise and brown noise, which are also used to drown unwanted racket. You can also choose to use a white noise app and place your phone next to your bed, or play a white noise clip from YouTube such as this one.
Fan As White Noise Alternative
Although fans don’t produce a completely flat sound, they can hit similar notes, thus creating a sound that is similar to white noise. The sound of your fan could potentially mask other unwanted sounds. If you’re concerned about opening your windows in Summer due to neighborhood noise, you can instead try using a fan to block out noise.
If you’re interested in a long term solution to blocking out traffic and neighborhood noise that doesn’t require earplugs or sounds, you may wish to consider soundproofing parts of your home and bedroom.
Double Or Triple Glazed Windows
What are double glazed windows?
Double glazed windows are window systems made up of two glass panes. The panes are generally separated by a spacer and a layer of gas or air.
Why are double or triple glazed windows a good alternative to earplugs for sleeping?
If the reason you need to use earplugs or white noise for sleep is to reduce outside sound from traffic or train lines, using double glazed windows (or triple glazed windows) can help. Some manufacturers claim that you can receive up to 70% noise reduction, in addition to the insulation benefits triple glazed windows also provide.
What is acoustic fencing?
Acoustic fencing is a barrier enacted for the purpose of noise reduction and is commonly used to create a soundproofed boundary between desired quiet spaces and busy roads or motorways.Acoustic fencing is a barrier enacted for the purpose of noise reduction and is commonly used to create a soundproofed boundary between desired quiet spaces and busy roads or motorways.
Why is acoustic fencing a good long-term alternative to earplugs for sleeping?
Acoustic fencing is a good long-term alternative to earplugs or the use of white noise for sleep because it can be used to reduce traffic and neighborhood noise, not just drown it out. Companies that specialize in acoustic fencing for homes claim that you can expect a four fold noise reduction, however, this will vary depending on product quality.
Although acoustic fencing offers much more than a replacement for earplugs and white noise for sleep, it is an expensive alternative. If sleep alone is the problem, acoustic fencing may not be your best option. However, if high levels of noise are a problem, all day, every day, this could be your solution.
Rearrange & Furnish
If noises from behind your wall at nighttime are the culprit, there are several options to try that do not involve white noise or sticking objects into your ear.
A possible alternative to earplugs for sleeping is to rearrange your bedroom so your head is not next to the offending wall. This solution is ideal for slight and annoying noise, but may be insufficient for very loud sounds.
Sound may be entering your bedroom and bouncing around because your space is void of soft furnishings. If you find this is the case, you may be surprised with the noise reduction you receive adding carpet, cushions and heavy curtains to absorb the sound.
Adding a solid mass to the offending wall may be an effective method to drown out a noisy housemate or partying neighbors. Using bookshelves, wardrobes or cupboards filled with personal items will reduce the noise level, while also absorbing some sound.
Alternative To Earplugs For Sleeping: Sound or Music Room
If you are not trying to block out unwanted neighborhood noise and instead want to create a soothing sleep environment, this section is for you. One of the best alternatives to earplugs for sleeping is to play sound or music in your bedroom.
White Noise Machine
White noise machines create white noise for sleep, but they can also be used to play other soothing sounds such as fans, crowds, city ambiance, the ocean, rain, and waterfalls. If you just don’t like the sound of static and it doesn’t help you fall asleep, playing alternative soothing sounds may be the answer.
Phone or Tablet
Using a phone or a tablet to play your music is a simple solution, which you most likely already have access to. Alternatively, you can use a Google Home (+ mini), or an Amazon Echo (plus), which offer far more features than just playing music.
If the sound your device produces is not conducive to sleep, you can purchase a cheap mini speaker such as the Rokono Mini, or a higher quality one such as the JBL Flip 3. Both speakers offer higher quality and a more balanced sound than your device speaker.
Using your home stereo system to play sounds or music is a good option if you already have one at your disposal. Most modern systems have Bluetooth functionality and some systems, such as the Bose Wave SoundTouch, even work with Amazon Alexa.
Alternative To Earplugs For Sleeping: Over-Ear
You might have a partner in the bedroom who doesn’t need sounds, music or white noise for sleep. Or you may not enjoy having earbuds or earplugs inside your ear while trying to sleep. In this situation, you could try over the ear solutions.
Active Noise Cancelling Headphones
Using active noise-canceling headphones enable you to control the sound levels in your bedroom, without waking your partner. Although a great alternative to earplugs for sleeping, over the ear noise-canceling headphones are best used if you are a back sleeper, as it might be uncomfortable to sleep on your side while wearing them. A good, cheap solution is the Boltune Bluetooth 5.0, while these Sony Noise Cancelling Headphones are a pricier, but higher quality option.
Wireless Bluetooth Headband
A great alternative to earplugs for sleeping, wireless Bluetooth headbands are thin and allow for comfortable side sleeping. These Homder Sleep Headphones, for example, offer multi-device connectivity, rechargeable battery, and an 18-month warranty. They can also be used while exercising (unlikely though, that you would use the same pair for exercise and sleep), so you can listen to your favorite tunes while working out, or as white noise to sleep.
Sleep Masks With Ear Muffs
Sleep masks with ear muffs or ear foam are a good solution for reducing sound without music, while also enabling you to sleep on your side. Sleep masks offer breathable memory foam, light blocking and an anti-slip strap at a very affordable prices.
A primitive, but viable solution, earmuffs can reduce the level of sound and are relatively inexpensive. If you have a pair lying around, give them a try to see if they are effective enough to block out the sound that’s bothering you, before spending on an alternative solution.
Alternative To Foam Earplugs For Sleeping: In-Ear
If you don’t like foam earplugs because they cause you pain, itching or irritation, there are alternatives you can try before moving on to a more expensive solution. It is possible you may not require an alternative to earplugs for sleeping if pain and irritation are your problems.
I have been sleeping with earplugs for over 2 years and have experienced pain, itching and irritation in the past. Generally, what I found was, by switching brands I was able to reduce and eventually eliminate the pain and irritation I felt. I also learned that the pain was worse in Winter, as the earplugs got cold and became hard. Warming them a little before placing them in my ears helped. You may also experience discomfort because the earplugs are a little dirty, so changing them more frequently can also help.
If you have tried the above with no success, or just don’t want to use foam earplugs and don’t mind an in-ear solution, these are some ideal alternatives;
Moldable Wax Earplugs
Moldable wax earplugs rest over the ear canal, rather than completely inside your ear like foam earplugs. They are applied by rolling and spreading the wax so it sits comfortably over your ear canal and doesn’t protrude. Moldable earplugs do enter into your ear very slightly, which is why they are classed as an ‘in-ear’ alternative, rather than an over the ear one.
A direct alternative to foam earplugs for sleeping, silicone earplugs are the same concept as foam earplugs, but are made from silicone, rather than foam. Silicone earplugs such as the TheFitLife noise reduction earplugs are made from hypoallergenic silicone, which is reusable and offers a comfortable flange design.
Not all earbuds are going to sit comfortably for sleep because they tend to be bulky and push on your ear when lying on your side. If you are a back sleeper, just about any earbuds will do the trick, however, if you sleep on your side, the following options are great alternatives to earplugs for sleeping;
- Bose Sleepbuds (Premium quality)
- Maxrock Sleeping Earbuds (Affordable Solution)
- Back Bay Active Noise Cancelling Headphones (Middle of the road option)
Several solutions exist as the best alternatives to earplugs for sleeping, which will be dependent on your circumstances and preferences. Options can include blocking unwanted sound through the use of white noise, or various soundproofing choices. Although foam earplugs are a common solution, they can pose irritation and hygiene issues. Alternative wax and silicone-based earplugs, or earbuds options, may provide a better result. Over the ear options, such as noise-canceling headphones, headbands or sleep masks with ear muffs offer other viable alternatives to earplugs.