Comparing custom to disposable foam hearing protection.

Are you concerned about your hearing and considering purchasing some form of hearing protection? With the world around us growing noisier and noisier every year, it’s not a bad idea to at least contemplate the decision! But what type of hearing protection would be best for you? Would a pair of custom-fitted earpieces really be worth paying the extra money, or would a cheap pair of foam, disposable earplugs get the job done just fine? In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at these two different hearing protection options, while also breaking down some of the clear benefits users gain by wearing custom-fit hearing protection. We will focus on three main factors when comparing foam to custom hearing protection: 1) Cost 2) Comfort and 3) Performance.


When discussing the differences between foam, disposable earplugs (or “foamies” as they’re commonly referred to) and custom-fit earpieces, a good place to start is how one goes about actually acquiring these hearing protection options. With a pair of foamies, you can likely visit any local department store and find some sort of disposable earplugs that you can buy right there on the spot, whereas with custom earpieces, there’s a bit more of an acquisition process involved. For custom earpieces, an ear impression must be taken to create the earpiece, as a custom earpiece will only be as good as the impression it was made from. Impressions can be taken at practically any audiologist office, and the price for getting your impressions taken will vary depending on the office you visit. While at first it might seem like foamies are the clear cheaper option, an individual must think about how much and how often they will need hearing protection. If you only need hearing protection for a one-time event, then perhaps some inexpensive foamies will protect your ears just fine for a single day or night…but what if your ears need reoccurring protection on a regular basis? While most foamies are only meant to be used just once before needing to be disposed, custom earpieces can be used repeatedly every day for up to five years, or even longer when properly maintained. So if you regularly find yourself in noisy environments that require hearing protection, you’ll quickly discover that a one-time purchase for custom hearing protection is much cheaper than repeatedly buying more and more pairs of foamies in the long run!

Consider the classic foam earplugs that Westone carries for $0.60 per pair, compared to our DefendEar Solid or Style 40 custom earpieces, which are $132.00 per pair. At first glance there’s no point in comparing the two prices, because the foamies are obviously much cheaper than a pair of customs. But what if you work at a construction site, dental office, shooting range, nightclub or any other workplace that may require hearing protection on a daily or nightly basis? If you were to buy one pair of our classic foamies five days a week at $0.60 per pair, even without the additional cost of taxes, you would be paying more than you would for a pair of DefendEar Solids after just 10 months of foamie purchases. With a pair of our DefendEar Solids however, your one-time payment of $132.00 will keep your ears protected for years to come!


Another key factor to be considered when comparing foamies to custom earpieces is the fit and comfort provided by each option once it is inserted into the ear. Foamies utilize a “one size fits all” approach to their earplugs while custom earpieces on the other hand, are obviously produced to fit one person’s ears and their ears only. While foamies’ approach is great for making them easily accessible, it is not as helpful in providing the ideal fit for users. One common issue users often find with foamies is that the earplugs are either too small or too big, making it hard to properly insert them far enough into the ear canal to establish a proper seal. Foamies also have to be inserted just right at the correct angle to create a proper seal in the canal, which is often not accomplished by users because they don’t know how to properly insert the foam earplugs. If a proper seal is never established, then the earplugs will not offer the proper or necessary amount of protection intended. Even when users do obtain a proper seal when inserting their foamies, the foam material itself can quickly become aggravating and agitate the inside of users’ ears after being worn for an extended period of time. When using a custom-fit earpiece however, these issues are extremely rare, as a custom earpiece will always provide users with an ideal fit that properly seals within the canal. Even if a custom earpiece doesn’t quite fit an individual just right initially, adjustments can be made to the earpiece until the fit and seal provided are absolutely perfect for the user’s own unique ears. At Westone, the majority of our earpieces are created out of a soft silicone material, or a similar material that offers the same softness and flexibility as our silicone earpieces. After extended periods of time being left in their ears, such as during long plane flights, customers often tell us how they forget they’re even wearing their custom earpieces after an hour or so, because they’re just so darn comfortable!


The single most important factor to be considered for anyone debating whether to buy a pair of custom or foam hearing protection, should always be the protection actually offered by each option. With foamies, there’s no way to adjust or enhance the amount of protection offered by the earplugs, so while they will definitely help to attenuate (or reduce) the noise of users’ surrounding environments, they will also decrease users’ ability to hear and communicate properly. As has been previously mentioned above, foamies need to be inserted a specific way into the ear to create a proper seal, because if not inserted correctly, then users’ hearing can be in danger even if their foamies stay in their ears in a seemingly correct position. With custom-fit earpieces, there’s only one way to correctly insert them, so users shouldn’t ever have to worry about whether they’re wearing their custom hearing protection correctly or not. Some custom earpieces, such as Westone’s DefendEar Concert or TRU Customs for example, feature interchangeable filters that allow users to still hear and communicate properly while their earpieces are inserted. Not only do these interchangeable filters allow users to still communicate and hear from their surroundings with their earpieces in, but they also give users more control of just how much protection they receive from the earpieces, thanks to the multiple filter options they have to choose from. 

No matter how you look at it, custom earpieces will always be superior to their foam, disposable counterparts. Custom earpieces offer users more advanced hearing protection options than foamies for numerous reasons, including being made out of more comfortable materials, providing a better seal by offering a more reliable fit and lasting over 50 times longer than the average foam earplug. If an individual is in need of regular or repetitive hearing protection, custom earpieces are even cheaper than foamies when comparing a one-time purchase for a pair of customs to hundreds of foamie purchases over an extended period of time. So the next time you or a friend find yourselves in need of hearing protection, make the smart choice and get some custom earpieces. Your ears will thank you for it later!