What is the secret to blocking out snoring noise?
Many people are forever on the hunt for the perfect earplugs to block snoring, but few ever find them. Others have given up and just try to live with snoring roommates or move them to a different room.
I am not going to rehash manufacturer’s claims; instead I am going to give you a tested (!) step-by-step guideline how you can indeed eliminate snoring noise by combining two effective noise cancelling techniques, noise blocking and noise masking.
To get an overview take a look at the infographic. Then read on for details on how to implement each snore blocking solution.
Why is it so difficult to block out snoring noise?
The main problem is that snoring can get really loud.
In 2009, Jenny Chapman, a retired UK bank employee, took part in a snoring boot camp to find a remedy for her loud snoring.
Snoring at a record 111 decibels, she was by far the loudest of all participants. She snored as loud as a jet plane. As you can imagine, many news outlets reported on the record-snoring grandma.
Very few people make that much noise at night.
But even a “moderately” loud snorer’s “Chrrrrrr” comes in at 50 dB, with peaks reaching up to 77 dB.
And how much noise do good earplugs block?
Well, the highest-rated earplugs have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 33 dB.
However, the NRR is an average (adjusted downward by two standard deviations), so if you are lucky and know how to insert your earplugs deeply (!), you can actually get up to 40 dB noise reduction across all frequencies.
That would leave you with snore crests of 37 dB (77 dB – 40 dB), which is actually not bad and may be enough to let you fall asleep, but it isn’t silent either.
Very loud snorers reach 90 decibels, which completely overwhelms every earplug ever designed.
Even if you were able to find the perfect earplug—completely blocking all noise going into your ear—that 90-dB snorer would still be obnoxiously loud. I certainly wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.
Why is that so?
The reason is bone conduction: sound is also being conducted through your skull into the inner ear, effectively bypassing your earplugs.
There is a solution though: to cancel out loud snoring noise you need to combine snore blocking earplugs with noise masking.
The problem with snoring noise is usually the peaks, the “grand finale” of the “CHRRR.”
To mask these peaks you need to play white noise fine-tuned to snoring, a constant noise backdrop that sounds like a waterfall.
If you play your white noise loud enough, the snore peaks just disappear in the constant waterfall backdrop and thus lose their startling nature. But first, you need to block as much as possible.
In the following we are looking at how to best combine noise blocking with noise masking for different levels of snoring noise.
Don’t skip the next section: it contains important basic information.
How to Block Out Moderate Snoring Noise?
Noise level: 50 dBA (77 dB peak)
Many snorers fall into this category.
You want to start with good earplugs with a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 28 or more.
Generally, the most effective ones are foam earplugs with an NRR of 33, but you need to select a pair that fits your ear canal and is comfortable for the whole night.
Don’t hunt only for the highest NRR, otherwise you may end up with a pair that is effective, but hurts after an hour or so. I have been there.
I have a normal-sized ear canal.
My current favorite snore-blocking earplugs are the Flents Quiet Time and the Moldex Purafit. Apart from their different color it appears to me that they are virtually identical in size, texture, and noise reducing ability. They are very effective, more easy to insert than most other foam earplugs, and comfortable:
If you have a smaller ear canal, the 3M OCS1135 are a great alternative.
You also need to learn how to insert your earplugs well; otherwise you could lose as much as 20 dB protection at some frequencies.
In this post I review my favorite earplugs for sleeping and offer tips to make them work better.
- If you don’t insert your earplugs deep enough, they may still seal your ear canal and muffle noise, but you won’t get enough noise reduction at the lower frequencies to effectively block snoring noise.
- In my experience, wax and silicone earplugs don’t block enough noise. They are good for moderate environmental noise at night.
Well-fitting foam earplugs block most of moderately loud snoring, but you are likely still going to hear some of the snore peaks.
If what remains of the snoring doesn’t bother you, you have found your solution: just stick to your earplugs.
If what remains annoys you and keeps you from falling asleep, you have three choices:
1. If the snoring comes from an adjacent room or a roommate that is far away from you, you can place a white noise machine on your nightstand and use it in addition to earplugs.
White noise machines work even quite well with a moderately loud snoring partner sleeping right next to you, but you would have to turn away from them and play your machine at a loud volume that is surely going to annoy them.
You would be protected by your earplugs, but to make this work for both of you, your snoring partner would have sleep to with earplugs as well.
I would still consider this solution though because it is amongst the most comfortable ones for me.
My favorite white noise machine is the Lectrofan Classic, which lets you finely adjust the pitch of the white noise to match what you want to mask. The Lectrofan can play white noise at up to 80 decibels and is also great for masking other disturbing environmental noise.
Since you are protected by foam earplugs, you can really crank up the volume.
If this solution is not acceptable to you and your partner, move on to option 2 or the solution outlined for loud snorers.
2. If you don’t want to wear earplugs, you can also substitute noise-isolating sleep earbuds for the earplugs.
Be aware though that you are not nearly getting the noise reduction of foam earplugs, so this solution is only suitable for moderate snorers or snorers in adjacent rooms.
Noise-isolating sleep earbuds block less noise than earplugs, but you are going to play white noise directly into your ear while still getting isolation from the snoring noise.
The main advantages: with sleep earbuds you can try many different soundscapes and they are very comfortable.
I have found a few types of sleep earbuds that are comfortable for sleeping on the side.
My absolute favorites for comfort are the MAXROCK in-ear sleep earbuds. These are made of silicone, have no hard parts and completely disappear in my ear. They are amongst the very few earbuds that I find more comfortable than foam earplugs.
If your ear canal is small to normal-sized, they also block a good amount of noise. The article headphones and earbuds that work for side sleepers reviews other alternatives.
Recently, Bose has come out with their Sleepbuds, tiny wireless earbuds that can be preloaded with white noise and other soundscapes. The idea is attractive, but for me they are a bit too expensive. If you want to try them out, make sure you can return them if they don’t do the trick.
Where do I get the masking sound from?
My favorite white noise app for iOS and Android is the free myNoise; it contains multiple sound generators, including a white noise generator that allows you to finely adjust the white noise to match the snoring noise using a 10-band equalizer.
3. If options 1 and 2 don’t work for you, move on to the next section.
How to Block Out Loud Snoring Noise?
Noise level: 55 dBA (83 dB peak)
To block loud snoring noise, snore-blocking foam earplugs are essential.
If you haven’t yet done it, please first read the section on blocking moderate snoring noise, which covers the basics.
Foam earplugs, providing a maximum of about 40 dB noise reduction, are a good start but not nearly enough to block loud snoring.
You can eliminate loud snoring by wearing headband sleep headphones on top of the earplugs and playing white noise to mask the remainder of the snoring noise. These headbands are made out of fleece or mesh material and have thin, removable speaker inserts.
The image below shows such a headband with one of the speakers taken out.
I recommend these two sleep headbands: SleepPhones Classic and Cozyphones Contour. SleepPhones Classic are better for a cooler climate and feature a stronger bass. CozyPhones Contour are great for a warmer climate and have a more detailed sound.
As white noise source, I use the app myNoise (iOS and Android), and adjust the white noise pitch for optimal effectiveness.
The post headphones and earbuds for side sleepers provides more details and also recommendations for wireless options.
You may wonder why I don’t recommend using earplugs in combination with sleep headbands even for moderate snoring noise: I find wearing only earplugs or sleep earbuds more comfortable than wearing earplugs plus a sleep headband, and I value comfort above all else.
How to Block Very Loud Snoring Noise?
Noise level: 65 dBA (90 dB peak)
Few snorers fall into this category. Most snorers snore moderately loud or loud. But even if you are unlucky and have a sawmill sleeping in the same room, chances are you can cancel enough of the noise to fall asleep.
My first line of defense against very loud snorers is again the combination of well-fitted foam earplugs and headband sleep headphones. This should almost always do the trick and is way more economical than the next solution. For more on this, please read the previous section.
Some snorers, however, can be so loud that you would have to increase your white noise volume to a level where the masking noise keeps you from falling asleep.
If you insist on sleeping with this kind of snorer in the same room and are a back sleeper with money, this is what you can do:
Use foam earplugs and wear a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones on top of the earplugs. Play white noise at a moderate level and the snorer is very likely—gone.
This solution outperforms anything else I have tried.
The main advantage compared to the sleep headband is that these noise cancelling headphones actively cancel the low-frequency parts of the snoring noise and add additional passive noise isolation at higher frequencies to the earplugs. The masking noise takes care of the rest.
This is very much like the double protection industrial workers have to wear when in extreme noise situations.
I don’t have a record-snoring grandma at home, but I have simulated obnoxious snorers with speakers playing snoring noise reaching peaks of more than 90 decibels, and it does the trick for me.
Unfortunately, while they are very comfortable, Bose’s over-the-ear headphones are not suitable for side sleepers.
But if you usually sleep on your back anyway, let them bring on the snoring noise.
With a combination of noise blocking and noise masking you can effectively cancel even loud snoring noise.
If you are a side sleeper (or a back sleeper) and need to get rid of loud snoring, inserting foam earplugs and playing white noise via headband sleep headphones through the earplugs is very effective.
To make earplugs work for you, I highly recommend you select earplugs that fit you and train earplug insertion (see the section on blocking moderate snoring noise for more details).
For the lower frequencies—especially prominent in male snoring noise—this can improve noise reduction by up to 20 dB, which amounts to a quadrupling of the earplug’s noise blocking effectiveness.
For moderate snoring noise, I use earplugs alone or sleep earbuds together with white noise because I find both more comfortable than sleep headbands.
If you and your partner are both willing to wear earplugs, consider adding a white noise machine for additional snore masking.
To cancel snoring noise coming from a different room, add a white noise machine on your nightstand.
If you are a back sleeper and in desperate need to get rid of obnoxious snoring noise: the combination earplugs + Bose + white noise should do it.
For more information, next read “What Are the Best Earplugs for Snoring” and “The Best Headphones and Earbuds for Sleeping on Your Side and on Your Back.”
Elliott H. Berger, “‘Calibrating’ the Insertion Depth of Roll-down Foam Earplugs,” Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics 19, no. 1 (May 14, 2013): 040002, https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4800461.
Kent Wilson et al., “The Snoring Spectrum: Acoustic Assessment of Snoring Sound Intensity in 1,139 Individuals Undergoing Polysomnography,” CHEST Journal 115, no. 3 (1999): 762–770.
J. A. Fiz et al., “Acoustic Analysis of Snoring Sound in Patients with Simple Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnoea,” European Respiratory Journal 9, no. 11 (1996): 2365–2370.