Do you have a small ear canal and find most earplugs impossible to put in and be comfortable?
I have been asked quite a few times to recommend earplugs that suit people with small and/or short ear canals, so I have decided to take out my calipers and start measuring them.
In this review, I have included small earplugs that I have come across through my own prior testing, earplugs advertised for people with small ears, and suggestions from readers and other reviewers.
I have tested all candidates for ease of insertion, subjective noise blocking effectiveness against pink noise, and eight-hour wearing comfort.
What you need to know about earplugs if you have a small ear canal
If you have read earplug reviews on online retailers, you will most likely have noticed very conflicting reviews, in particular when it comes to “small earplugs.”
I think this is because even among people with small ear canals there is quite a variety of different shapes and sizes:
- wide first and then quite narrow
- narrow all the way
- shorter vs longer
- crooked with several bents
Because foam earplugs are first compressed by rolling them up and then expand in the ear, good standard-size earplugs fit a large variety of different ear canals.
They just need to expand more or less to achieve their objective: sealing the canal.
Bothered by noise, we usually hunt for the earplugs with the highest noise reduction rating (i.e., NRR 33) in the hope of getting the most relief possible, which often means earplugs with a higher foam-density.
But if you have a very small ear canal, you might have a hard time compressing standard-sized high-NRR earplugs and even smaller high-density foam earplugs enough to insert them properly.
Consequently, you may have to try quite a few different earplugs to find some that fit you, block enough noise, and are comfortable.
With this in mind, my aim with this review is to help you select a few different earplugs (perhaps two or three) and try them yourself.
Also, you may find it advantageous to have a selection of favorite earplugs that work for you, so you can alternate between them and avoid pressure points and discomfort.
To get an idea of available earplug sizes, take a look at the following image:
From left: Flents Quiet Please (short), Quiet Time (normal-sized ear canal), Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink (small ear), Mack’s Slim Fit (very small), Flents Protechs Sleep earplugs (the smallest earplugs in this review), and Flents Quiet Contour (larger brother of Protechs Sleep).
Best earplugs for small ears overview table
|Name||For who||Earplug size||NRR||Comfort||Insertion Ease|
|Mack's Slim Fit||first choice for very small ears||very small||29||8/10||8/10|
|Flents Protechs Sleep Earplugs||if tapered earplugs don't fit||the smallest||28||9/10||8/10|
|Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink||first choice for small ears||small||32||8/10||8/10|
|3M Yellow Neons||highest NRR alternative for small ears||small||33||7.5/10||7/10|
|Flents Quiet Please||first choice for short ear canals||short, but normal diameter||29||9/10||8/10|
|Name||Length (inches)||Length (cm)||Diameter (inches)||Diameter (cm)|
|Flents Protechs Sleep Earplugs||0.85||2.2||0.37/0.34||1.0/0.9|
|Mack's Slim Fit||0.88||2.2||0.43/0.31||1.1/0.8|
|HEAROS Sleep Pretty in Pink||0.89||2.3||0.45/0.39||1.1/1.0|
|3M Yellow Neons||0.9||2.3||0.47/0.39||1.2/1.0|
|Flents Quiet Please (short, but not narrow)||0.79||2.0||0.52||1.3/1.3|
It is a bit of a hassle to measure these earplugs, but looks can sometimes be deceiving.
The smallest earplugs, observations
Mack’s Slim Fit foam earplugs (NRR 29)
- Very small and easily squish-able
- Easy to roll up and insert
- Surprisingly good bass noise reduction
Flents Protechs foam earplugs for sleep (NRR 28)
- Very comfortable due to their bulb shape
- Easy to roll up and insert
- Effectively the smallest earplugs in this review (due to their unique shape)
- Less noise reduction than Slim Fit but still very respectable
Mack’s Dreamgirl (NRR 30)
- Mack’s Dreamgirl are almost as small as the Mack’s Slim Fit
- Noise reduction comparable to Slim Fit
- Less comfortable than Slim Fit & Flents
Small earplugs (a bit larger than the first options), observations
Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink (NRR 32)
- Somewhat denser foam than Slim Fit
- Very easy to insert due to their very long foam recovery time
- More effective noise reduction than the smallest choices, in particular for the mid- and higher frequencies
- Less tapered than Slim Fit and Dreamgirl
3M Yellow Neons 312-1250 (NRR 33)
- The highest NRR
- Almost the same size as the Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink
- Subjectively, similar noise blocking performance compared to the Hearos
- Expand somewhat faster than Hearos, so you have less time to insert them
- Comfortable but denser and less comfy than the Hearos
- Very economical when bought in large quantities
Short earplugs (normal diameter), observations
Flents Quiet Please
- Rolling them up the first time takes time; at first, they appear harder than other plugs and require more finger strength
- Insertion is easy
- Very comfortable (very little pressure in the ear canal)
- Good noise blockers, on par with Slim Fit, but not quite as effective as Pretty in Pink
- After a few nights, they are easy to roll up, but then they also block less noise
Small moldable silicone putty and wax earplugs
Silicone putty and wax earplugs are very decent at blocking mid- and high-frequency noise and very comfortable. Because they are moldable they are a good alternative for people with small ear canals.
For blocking snoring or bass noise, however, I find them not up to the task.
Their main advantages:
- They don’t create any pressure inside the ear because they merely seal the canal entrance.
- When used properly, there is very little risk of pushing ear wax (cerumen) further down the ear canal.
Unlike foam and triple-flange earplugs, never insert silicone putty or wax earplugs into your ear canal. Instead, shape them into a ball and flatten them over your ear opening.
If a particular wax or silicone earplug is too small to fit safely over your ear opening, use a larger size.
Mack’s Kid Size soft moldable silicone (NRR 22)
- Mack’s recommends the kids’s size pillow soft earplugs for children age 6 and under only.
- Nevertheless, some adults with very small ears report that they find the adult-size silicone putty earplugs too large and use the kid’s size instead.
- The kid’s size are about the same size as the standard Quies wax earplugs and a bit smaller than the Ohrpopax Classic wax.
For more information on moldable silicone and wax earplugs, please also read my post Foam vs Wax vs Silicone Earplugs.
So which earplugs do I recommend you start with?
Slim Fit are even smaller earplugs than the already small Hearos, but while being surprisingly good at blocking bass noise, the Hearos are overall the more effective noise blockers.
Both earplugs are easy to roll up and insert. Hearos stand out because their memory foam expands very slowly, allowing you plenty of time to insert them.
The 3M Yellow Neons are a good alternative to the Hearos. They have an even higher noise reduction rating (33 vs 32), and they are virtually the same size and shape as the Hearos, but they are denser and somewhat less comfortable. Also, their tip expands faster, giving you less time to put them in.
If you have a small ear canal and a hard time with tapered foam earplugs, e.g., you find most tapered foam earplugs uncomfortable or they keep falling out, I recommend you try Flent’s Protech Sleep earplugs.
Due to their unique bulb-like shape, they are the smallest earplugs I have been able to find.
They are very comfortable and easy to insert.
They are a bit less effective at blocking noise than the other foam earplugs described here, but still very respectable. An NRR of 28 is pretty high actually, so don’t let that deter you from trying these excellent earplugs.
If you have a short ear canal of normal diameter, I recommend the cylindrical Flent’s Quiet Please.
The Quiet Please earplugs are one of my personal favorites.
They are a bit harder to roll up and initially appear a bit coarser than most other foam earplugs, but once they are in my ears, they are amongst the most comfortable earplugs of them all.
They can also work for narrow ear canals, but then you have to work even harder at rolling them up.
If you can’t have anything in your ear canal, silicone putty and wax earplugs are good options if you need to block moderate noise.
Noise reduction ratings for small earplugs
|Earmuffs||NRR||125 Hz||250 Hz||500 Hz||1000 HZ||2000 Hz||3150 Hz||4000 Hz||6300 Hz||8000 Hz|
|3M Yellow Neons||33||38.4 (4.8)||40.3 (4.8)||43.2 (5.0)||41.8 (4.0)||38.6 (2.6)||45.0 (3.3)||45.7 (3.3)||49.6 (4.0)||47.3 (3.5)|
|Hearos Sleep Pretty in Pink||32||35.3 (3.9)||33.4 (2.9)||38.7 (3.5)||37.7 (2.4)||39.7 (3.1)||44.2 (4.5)||45 (4.0)||48.2 (3.6)||48.2 (3.1)|
|Mack's Dreamgirl||30||33.2 (4.1)||36.6 (5.2)||38.8 (4.8)||36.6 (3.3)||37.5 (3.2)||41.2 (2.5)||42.0 (3.7)||47.7 (3.4)||49.1 (4.2)|
|Mack's Slim Fit||29||34.4 (3.4)||35.0 (4.2)||36.2 (3.8)||35.9 (3.0)||36.4 (2.9)||38.9 (3.0)||39.8 (3.2)||42.6 (4.2)||43.0 (4.1)|
|Flents Quiet Please||29||36.3 (4.9)||33.8 (4.9)||38.3 (5.6)||37.5 (4.7)||39.0 (3.3)||45.3 (4.6)||46.7 (3.7)||50.4 (3.5)||49.1 (3.6)|
|Flents Protechs Sleep Earplugs||28||30.2 (5.0)||34.0 (5.0)||35.7 (4.2)||35.6 (3.5)||37.3 (3.1)||41.1 (5.6)||43.1 (5.5)||45.5 (5.3)||43.4 (4.4)|
|Mack's Soft Silicone Putty – Kids Size||22||23.7 (4.0)||23.3 (3.6)||25.0 (2.8)||27.3 (2.7)||34.3 (4.0)||39.2 (4.3)||38.9 (4.2)||38.2 (4.5)||37.4 (4.5)|
Noise reduction ratings and attenuation data as reported by the manufacturers. Standard deviation in parentheses.
These are averages based on a REAT conducted with 10 test persons ( ANSI S 3.19-1974).