What Are the Best Earplugs for Low Frequency Noise?

best earplugs for low frequency noise

In this post, I am sharing my favorite earplugs for blocking low frequency noise. I have systematically tested the earplugs mentioned here. In addition, I have used them in a variety of bass-noise heavy environments.

To work well against low frequency noise, earplugs have to plug the ear deep inside the canal. It is the extra few millimeters that can make all the difference.

The challenge when attempting to maximize low frequency noise reduction with earplugs is that ear canals vary a lot.

Some ear canals are wide and then taper off while others stay wide. Others yet are narrow along most of the length.

If your earplug is too large for your ear, you will have a hard time getting it all the way into the bony part of the ear canal, but that’s where it ideally would be for best results.

And, if you do get the earplug in deep, it might exert substantial pressure and perhaps become uncomfortable after an hour or so.

On the other hand, if your earplug is too narrow for your ear canal, you could push it all the way in, and it might still only provide a shallower seal (closer to the wider end of the plug).

Ideally you need earplugs that consistently provide a deep seal and stay comfortable in that location for a long period of time.

For a better understanding of how deep you need to insert your earplugs and how to test their performance, please also read the post How to Make Your Earplugs Block More Low Frequency Noise.

Best earplugs for low frequency noise summary

1. Best overall: Flents Quiet Please

cylindrical foam Flents Quiet Please

For low frequency noise reduction, the cylindrical Quiet Please are among the most effective earplugs I have tested.

Moreover, I can consistently get a deep seal and yet they exert very little pressure in the ear canal.

Use cases: Sleeping; daytime use

2. Best reusable no-roll earplugs: 3M Push-Ins (runner up: HL TrustFit Pod)

The 3M Push-ins are reusable foam earplugs you just twist into your ear canal. No roll-down is required.

reusable 3M Push-ins

Use cases: Daytime use; loud concerts; can be inserted and removed fast. Stem not ideal for side sleeping.

Alternatively, for me the slightly larger Howard Leight TrustFit Pod plugs are even a tad more effective against low frequency noise than the 3M plugs. However, I find them a bit less comfortable, which is why they are the runner up. On the plus side, their stem is more flexible.

reusable Howard Leight TrustFIt Pod

3. Best budget earplug headphones for low frequency noise: Etymotic MK5 Isolator

etymotic mk5 with foam tips

Etymotic Research’s earphones offer the best low frequency noise reduction of all passive noise isolation earphones I have tested. In my experience, their performance is at least on par with push-in earplugs.

Use cases: Studying; public transport; loud gym; listening to music or audiobooks in peace and quiet. Not ideal for sleeping. Not marketed as a hearing protector, so no NRR.

Low frequency noise reduction test results

The results below are from a test using my own ears with pulsed noises at increasing frequencies. I have included low frequency noise down to 40 Hz.

Depending on how well the earplugs fit you, your mileage will vary.

Most often, noise <= 250 Hz is considered low frequency noise (but there is no standard definition). The following table shows noise reduction averages (arithmetic) for the recommended earplugs.

I have split the low frequency range into two parts:

  • Low bass and bass: 1/3rd octave bands up to 125 Hz.
  • Higher bass: bands from 160 – 250 Hz.

noise reduction table earplugs for low frequency noise

For comparison, I have also included the Moldex Pura-Fit, one of my favorite foam earplugs overall.

Starting from 160 Hz and against mid- and high frequency noise, the Pura-Fit are more effective than my low frequency noise recommendations.

However, in the low bass and bass range, the Quiet Please work a lot better (+12 dB) in my ears.

This makes a big difference when trying block truck rumble, generator noise or music bass.

In addition, I find it easier to obtain consistent results against low frequency noise with the Quiet Please and my push-in earplug recommendations than with most tapered PU foam earplugs.

I believe the cylindrical shape is more adaptable when it comes to providing a deep seal in ear canals of different shapes and sizes.

Noise reduction graph

noise reduction graph earplugs for low frequency noise

Earplugs details

Best for low frequency noise overall: Quiet Please

cylindrical foam Flents Quiet Please

The cylindrical Quiet Please (NRR 29) are made of PVC, and appear stiffer when rolling them down. However, in my experience, this PVC foam exerts less pressure in the ear than tapered foam plugs of a similar diameter, in particular when inserted deeply.

The Quiet Please are fairly short but wide enough to fit most ear canals.

Tapered earplugs are typically made of PU foam and have a softer feel, but they are often denser than PVC plugs of the same width.

In case you are wondering, the diameter of the Quiet Please (0.52 – 0.53 inches) is about the same as that of the 3M EAR Classic, the first foam earplugs. However, I find the Quiet Please easier to roll down and insert, and I get better noise reduction with them.

Strengths:

  • Great low frequency noise reduction.
  • Comfortable even for side sleeping.
  • Cylindrical shape allows for a consistent deep seal in a variety of ear canal shapes.
  • Exert less pressure in the ear canal than PU earplugs with the same diameter.
  • More forgiving than most earplugs if you don’t get the seal quite right.

Weaknesses:

  • Don’t last as long as PU foam earplugs. I have to change them after three or four nights.
  • Relatively short. They can work for people with longer ear canals (like mine) but become more of a hassle to get out.
  • Need more practice to roll down and insert than tapered foam earplugs.

To learn how the Quiet Please compare to other offerings by Flents, read my comparative test and review of Flents foam earplugs.

Best reusable no-roll earplugs: 3M Push-Ins (runner up: Howard Leight TrustFit Pod)

reusable 3M Push-ins

I find the 3M Push-Ins no-roll foam (NRR 28, tip diameter: 0.47 inches, 11.9 mm) comfortable for day time use.

They have a rigid stem and are very easy to insert and take out. This is great if you need something against low frequency noise (or any kind of noise for that matter) at the spur of a moment.

reusable Howard Leight TrustFIt Pod

The Howard Leight TrustFit Pod (NRR 28, tip diameter: 0.5 inches, 12.6 mm) perform even slightly better than the 3M Push-Ins for me, but they are a bit less comfortable. They have a flexible stem though.

There is not much that separates the Push-ins and the TrustFit Pod, so if one doesn’t work for you, try the other one.

By design these push-in foam earplugs are both denser and narrower than the Flents Quiet Please, so they won’t fit quite as many different ear canals. For this reason, I recommend two options that provide a somewhat different fit.

Strengths:

  • Very good low frequency noise reduction.
  • No roll-down necessary.
  • Very easy to insert and remove.
  • More adaptable and more consistent seal than with reusable silicone earplugs.

Weaknesses:

  • Stem can make them uncomfortable for side sleeping.
  • Denser than roll-down PVC (e.g., Flents Quiet Please)
  • They don’t fit as many different ear canals as roll-down foam earplugs
  • Reusable but not quite as long lasting as reusable silicone.

Tips:

  • While these are no-roll-down earplugs, you can actually roll the tip to compress them a bit. This way, they slide in even easier.
  • At times, I also moisturize the ear tip with my lips.

How about reusable silicone earplugs (triple and quadruple flange)?

I have tried many, and some of these pre-molded earplugs offer good low frequency noise reduction, so they are an option.

However, in my experience the seal tends to be less reliable than that of push-in foams (e.g., when you move your jaw), and I find them a bit harder on the ears.

New designs are constantly appearing and I keep getting new ideas, so stay tuned for updates.

Best budget earplug headphones for low frequency noise: Etymotic Research MK5 Isolator

etymotic-mk5-with-pouch

Etymotic Research’s earphones offer low frequency noise reduction that is as good as that of the best push-in earplugs I have tested. Moreover, like good earplugs, they are very effective at attenuating noise across the whole frequency range.

Most of Etymotic’s deep-ear insertion earphones are aimed at audiophiles who want accurate sound reproduction and strive to explore the finer details in their music.

The MK5 Isolator are their budget earphones, but they too have the deep-ear insertion design and ear tip selection of the premium models.

For best performance and comfort I recommend the cylindrical foam ear tips, for durability the silicone ear tips.

Strengths:

  • The best low frequency noise reducing earphones I have found so far. On par with very effective earplugs.
  • Neutral sound.
  • Very good for acoustic music, vocals, and podcasts.
  • Different sizes of foam (small and extra-large have to be purchased extra) and silicone ear tips.
  • The exceptional noise isolation allows you to listen at a low volume even in a very noisy environment (e.g., public transport, outdoor café close to a busy road).

Weaknesses:

  • If you use foam, expect to replace the ear tips every few weeks (or use silicone).
  • Ear tips more expensive than earplugs.
  • Bass too light for rock and EDM music.
  • For me good for daytime use: not comfy enough for sleeping.
  • No noise reduction rating (NRR): not marketed as a hearing protector (despite having the potential).

For more information on these earphones read my full review of the Etymotic MK5 Isolator.

Other earplugs with good low frequency noise reduction potential

The following earplugs have performed well in my tests but didn’t quite make the best of list for various reasons.

Nevertheless, they are good alternatives if the main recommendations don’t work for you (or you don’t like them).

Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink (NRR 32, smaller ears)

  • Comfy PU foam earplugs, good for smaller and average-size ear canals.
  • Good against low frequency noise but not quite as effective as the Quiet Please in my ears.
  • Last longer than PVC earplugs.

Mack’s Slim Fit (NRR 29, small ears)

  • Even smaller than the Sleep Pretty in Pink.
  • Too small for larger ear canals (they are quite effective for me but have to be inserted very very deeply).

Hearos Xtreme Protection (NRR 32/33)

  • Alternative if you have a larger ear canal.
  • Very good low frequency noise reduction potential, almost on par with the Flents Quiet Please.
  • If you have a smaller canal you may find it difficult to get them in deep enough.
  • Denser earplugs that exert more pressure in the ear canal than the Quiet Please.

Note:

  • Hearos has changed the formula (or manufacturer?) of the Xtreme Protection several times, which makes it hard to keep track.
  • I have used the original formula (which was loved by many) and also tested the “reincarnation of the original formula.” There is also a bulb-shaped version that was introduced in between under the same name.
  • My remarks here are for the reincarnation of the original formula, not for the bulb-shaped ones.

I intend to update this list if/when I discover new, promising low frequency noise busters.

Conclusion

This post is to help people who need relief from low frequency noise find suitable earplugs. I too am bothered by this kind of noise.

To that end, I have attempted to select earplugs that not only reduce such noise well for me, but are also adaptable to many different ear canal shapes.

I believe the cylindrical Flents Quiet Please give most folks a good chance of getting the deep comfortable seal necessary for good low frequency noise reduction.

They need a bit more practice to roll down than tapered earplugs, but in my opinion they are well worth the effort.

To compress them, start by rolling them while applying only light pressure, and as they get smaller progressively increase that pressure.

The recommended reusable earplugs 3M Push-Ins and Howard Leight TrustFit Pod are great no-roll alternatives primarily for day time use. They can work for back sleepers (and perhaps even some side sleepers who can cope with the stem) but are not as low-pressure as the Quiet Please.

Finally, if you need noise isolation earphones that work well against low frequency noise, I have so far found nothing that beats Etymotic Research’s offerings. The budget MK5 Isolator (full test and review) are a great entry level model, primarily for daytime use.

Unlike the previously mentioned earplugs, the MK5 are not marketed as hearing protection earplugs and hence have no noise reduction rating. But boy do they work.

If you haven’t yet done so, read How to Make Your Earplugs Block More Low Frequency Noise next to learn how to optimize and test your earplugs’ performance.

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