A Guide To Fitting Foam Earplugs

Removing auditory stimuli is a fundamental element to achieving true sensory deprivation. Although good floatation centres usually take soundproofing measures when building their sensory deprivation rooms, it is pretty difficult to achieve a 100% noise-free space. That is why it is recommended you wear a pair of foam earplugs while inside a sensory deprivation/float tank. Plus, wearing earplugs will also prevent you from getting salty, crusty ears!

This post looks at how to properly use foam earplugs to get the best comfort and achieve the maximum sound protection during your next sensory deprivation tank adventure. To make things really easy we’ve broken it down to just 3 steps to the perfect earplug plugging.

1. Roll the Plug Into a Tiny, Tightly Compressed Cylinder

Some people like to roll it along their fingers, other people like to roll it around their fingers, and others, because they need some extra finger strength, will go for the double thumb roll. Each of these methods are fine, however rolling the earplug between your palms is not recommended and risks causing the plug to become distorted and creased.

To begin with roll the plug slowly, without squeezing it too hard. As the plug gets smaller and smaller you can start to apply more pressure to your roll. Squeezing too hard too soon, can squash the plug which may cause creases or wrinkles, so roll the plug slowly, gradually increasing the pressure.

The best rolled earplug looks round and smooth, and will roll up and down your fingers in a very consistent manner. Once you have rolled the plug down, then you need to apply as much pressure as your fingers can handle without breaking. The goal here is to squeeze the earplug down so that you have a tiny, crease free cylinder that you can then slip into your earhole. A bad roll down will equal a bad fit, so don’t rush this step.

2. Hold Your Ear, Pulling Outward and Upward to Open the Ear Canal

There is a technique to fitting the plug in the ear and this may take some practice so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time. Firstly, you must assume the correct position. While holding the earplug in one hand, reach over your head with the hand opposite the ear that’s being fitted and grasp your ear firmly, gently pulling it outwards and upwards. This changes the opening of the ear canal making it wider and easier for you to slide the earplug in. The direction may vary somewhat from person to person, but in all cases, you will be grabbing the ear between the thumb and forefingers and pulling it away from the side of your head.

At this point you are ready to make an attempt at slipping your rolled down earplug (pinner) into the earhole. Once you have successfully inserted the earplug, you can remove your fingers from your ear and allow it to expand into a custom, comfortable fit. There is no reason to continue holding the plug in place if you have made a successful docking. If things didn’t go quite as planned, you need to begin your roll down again before attempting a second insertion.

3. Check for a Proper Fit

The most likely cause of a bad fit is that the roll down was not good enough, or it has expanded too much before the insertion attempt was made. When this happens, there is no point trying to force it into the earhole, it’s just not going to happen.

Sight check for proper fit:
A gage that can help to judge the fit of a foam earplug is where the back of the earplug sits relative to the little bump in front of the ear, which is called the tragus. You can see that in the above case, where the plug has been poorly fitted, that much of it is outside the tragus.

When a plug has been properly inserted, you can barely see any foam in the ear, as it is lost well behind the tragus. The bowl part of the ear has no foam in it because it is in the ear canal itself.

Touch check for proper fit:
If you don’t have a mirror handy, you can simply feel the back of the plug, relative to the tragus to gauge if it is inserted properly. Another way to assess the fit is to allow the earplug to expand in your ear for about a minute or so, and then remove and examine it. If it’s a good fit, it will provide a custom impression of your ear canal.

Remember that fitting earplugs is a technique and like any skill, practice makes perfect. It may take a bit longer to begin with, but when you get it right, it can be a total game changer in the sensory deprivation tank.