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Sleeping With Noise

This report explains how to approach the problem of sleeping with noise and describes the available drug-free solutions.

Whether your sleep is being disturbed by noisy neighbors, your precocious pet, or your snoring spouse, we have good news for you. You no longer have to suffer the misery of inadequate sleep.

You can solve minor noise problems with either of two simple solutions: ear plugs or white noise machines.

For more challenging noise problems such as loud snoring, heavy bass music, or nearby traffic noise, you will need a more potent solution such as an in-ear white noise machine, or a Total Isolation System.

White Noise Machines

The least troublesome noise management system is this: put a relatively constant noise into your environment that will mask the noise that is irritating you. For those who suffer from tinnitus, hyperacusis, meniere's disease, and other similar maladies that cause internally generated noises in the ear, a masking noise is nearly the only solution available. Millions of people, both those with these disorders and ordinary people who are bothered by noises in the night, sleep with a fan running every night year around for the specific purpose of drowning out annoying noises. This fan sound is white noise, a flat, unobtrusive noise that your brain can quickly and easily filter out and ignore during sleep or other activities.

Of course, running a fan is not the best solution because it uses electricity that, over time, can become expensive, and the draft makes you cold, causing your heating bills to be higher as well. A fan can actually help reduce your cooling bill in the summer, but in the winter it is a bad solution for masking noise.

If you want to add a flat background noise to your environment, choose a white noise machine. Some of the best white noise machines are made by Marpac Corporation, a company based in the USA.  These are moderately-priced, high quality machines that can be left running constantly for years without a problem.

The factors you consider in choosing a white noise machine should include durability, sound quality, and the variety of sounds the machine will make. White noise machines range in price from around $15 for a very cheap, low-quality machine available at discount stores, to over $300 for the kind of machine available at the high-end specialty catalog retailers. The big difference is the number of sounds available and the quality of the sounds themselves.  By a huge margin, most people prefer a wind or steady rain noise; these are probably the best sounds for masking common, irritating noises (such as snoring and traffic) while still being comfortable enough to listen to for hours at a time. Those who spend more for a machine that offers lots of different sounds tell us they end up using just one or two of the simplest noises the machine can offer. Still, a variety of other sounds can be a nice bonus when you want to use an interesting background sound (like a pond or a seashore) to create a calming ambience in a private office or to set the mood at home for a romantic evening.

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Ear Plugs

Here's a good starting point when choosing ear plugs: no other kind of passive ear plugs work as well as do the inexpensive foam plugs. Urethane foam is the best noise insulating material in use today, and the best rating possible from any ear plug is an NRR of 33. Wax is not better. Rubber is not better. Space age materials are not better. Ear plugs made from these and other materials might be more comfortable, they may be easier to insert properly, and they may last longer, but they will not block more noise. Even custom molded plugs do not block more noise than properly inserted foam plugs do.

People vary widely in their tolerance of noise and in their tolerance of earplugs. Some people simply cannot stand wearing ear plugs of any kind. Others have strong preferences for particular types, shapes, materials, and sizes of ear plugs. But by and large, most people are unaware of the vast range of earplugs available today. A typical drug or discount store will stock 3 to 5 different kinds of plugs. At the Ear Plug Superstore we stock many different kinds of foam plugs alone, plus a huge variety other kinds of ear plugs made of other materials.

From this large selection, you may find a style of ear plug that suits you perfectly. If you do, and if you use the ear plugs properly so that you get the maximum performance the plugs are capable of, simple ear plugs might be all you need to get the rest and the noise relief you crave.

If you have not yet tried a range of ear plugs beyond those available locally, we encourage you to do so before you resort to more expensive (and less convenient) solutions. To help you find the right plugs, we have developed a number of trial packs and kits that will let you experiment with a wide variety of ear plugs to find just the right one for your situation.

And before you give up on ear plugs as a solution, be sure you are inserting them properly. An improperly inserted plug may fall out during the night, and it will give you far less effectiveness than it has the potential to provide. Here is the proper method for inserting ear plugs:

  1. With clean hands, using your right hand, roll the foam plug tightly into a thin, wrinkle-free cylinder as small as you can make it.
  2. Reach over with your other hand and pull your right ear outward and back toward the back of your head to straighten the ear canal.
  3. While holding your ear gently in this position, thread the plug well down into the canal as deep as you can make it go while still maintaining a grip on it.
  4. Hold the plug in place for at least 30 seconds to allow it time to fully expand.
  5. Repeat with the opposite ear, using the opposite hands.

For reusable pre-molded ear plugs, use only steps 2 and 3; this is the same method, except you do not need to roll the plugs and you do not need to wait for them to expand. As with foam plugs, the trick to maximizing the effectiveness of pre-molded plugs is getting the plugs inserted deeply and properly.

The above procedure will insure that you are getting the full rated performance from your earplugs.

If following this procedure does not result in a secure fit with nearly all of the plug inside your ear canal, or if inserting the plug deeply inside your ear causes pain or discomfort, you may need a different size or kind of ear plug. If you cannot get a satisfactory fit with any of a variety of plugs, you may need custom molded ear plugs which will literally fit anyone -- because they are made from an impression taken directly from your ears.

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White Noise CDs

White noise CDs are an alternative to White Noise machines.  White noise CD's come in a wide variety of sounds including rain, running water, wind, surf, pure white noise and many more. As a sleep aid, white noise CDs are not as good as white noise machines because once an hour the white noise CD must reset to start playing again even when your CD player is on repeat.  Each time it does that, you will experience a few seconds of silence. During deep sleep, that momentary silence will not normally wake you, but during REM or light sleep (which is also vitally important to getting a good night's sleep and waking feeling rested), the silence will often wake you up, sometimes causing you more trouble than the noise it is supposed to mask.

White noise CDs are ideal, however, for masking noises during waking hours at home, in the college dorm or at work. Using a white noise CD and a set of isolation earphones will actually give you the ability to block virtually ALL incoming sounds -- even the telephone ringing or someone yelling at you in the same room! 

For a more detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of white noise CDs vs white noise machines, take a look at our White Noise Comparison Page.

In-Ear White Noise Devices

Putting white noise right into the ear gives you maximum control and is an excellent way to gain relief from irritating noises without having to fill the room with white noise that might bother other occupants. These devices are virtually the only choice for those who need tinnitus relief both during the day and night. Digital tinnitus masking devices are available through professional audiologists at a cost usually somewhere between $1500 and $2500.

We offer a low cost alternative in our unique Sleep-Eze, which sells for under $190. It comes with 5 different sizes of tips to fit most users, and it performs in a virtually identical manner to the higher priced medical devices. If you are using the Sleep-Eze for blocking loud noises, you will need to choose a set of tips that fully seal the canal for maximum effect.  However, if you are using the Sleep-Eze as a tinnitus reduction device, you need to choose a set of tips that will NOT seal the canal, but will just hold them securely in place.

Note:  In all cases, you should use the lowest volume of white noise that will do the job.  Whether you're looking for nighttime relief or 24-7 noise masking, protecting your hearing is always first priority.

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Total Isolation System

Our Total Isolation System is the only system of its kind available anywhere, and it comes as close as you can get to providing perfect isolation against any kind of noise. The system includes two components:
  1. A set of Challenger S full custom isolation earphones designed by and made exclusively for The Ear Plug Super Store
  2. A source of masking sounds

The Challenger S isolation earphones are custom fitted to your ears, and they provide 25-30+ dB of passive noise reduction (like an ear plug), while letting you deliver any kind of masking sound you prefer right into your ears.

 The earphones alone will reduce the noise you hear by as much as 90%, and then you can add just a little masking noise (rain, white noise, music, etc.) to drown out any little irritating noises you can still hear. The only kind of noise the Total Isolation System cannot block completely is the deep bass that travels through your body to your inner ear and is actually felt more than heard.  The Challenger S earphones are made to be comfortable enough to lie on, and when you are lying down, you can route the wires up from your ears over the top of the bed so they do not interfere with turning over in the night. b

Once you have your custom fitted Challenger S isolation earphones, you can experiment with various masking sound sources. We recommend that you plug them into a white noise machine which will give you a smooth, uninterrupted masking noise all night or all day without the periods of silence you get from a white noise CD resetting itself once an hour. During the day, your Challenger S earphones can be used with a white noise CD in a portable CD player, a radio, or an iPod to give you the isolation you need when trying to concentrate in the office or dorm room.  The Challenger S earphones will also make your plane trips and commuting times much more comfortably quiet and enjoyable.

Finally, as a bonus your great new custom made Challenger S earphones will deliver incredible, crystal-clear audiophile-quality music for those times when you just want to listen to your favorite tunes.

WARNING: Using the Total Isolation System™ at a volume that exceeds safe levels can damage your hearing. The Total Isolation System™ is capable of masking emergency alarms, crying children and other sounds you may want or need to be able to hear, and with the system in place, ordinary alarm clocks may not be loud enough to wake you.


If you are just getting started, we suggest that you begin with a trial pack of ear plugs and/or a white noise machine or CD. Then if you cannot find an ear plug you like or if the white noise in the room is not doing it, move up to Sleep-Eze or to the Total Isolation System.  No matter what frustrating noises may be keeping you awake at night, there is a solution. You are not alone, and your problems are shared by more people than you know.

You can find the relief you need.

We are here to help. You do not have to suffer any more.

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