We put three brands of earplugs, specifically designed for kids, to the test.
Traveling with children can be a wonderful experience – and an awful experience. I recently found this out while 25,000 feet in the air on a 20-minute descent into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. One of my two daughters suffered excruciating ear pain. The rapid change in air pressure had her in tears. This ordeal led me to research earplugs made specifically for children to use on planes. We had an opportunity to try out three different products, and here’s how they stack up.
My daughters used Mack’s Pillow Soft Moldable Silicone Putty Earplugs on a 40-minute flight and kept them in gate to gate. These earplugs are made of pliable silicone. They come in a pack of six pairs. They did the trick, as the girls experienced no ear pressure issues. Mack’s was easy to use: just pull out a roll and mold the silicone around the ear. You’ll want to make sure to get a good seal with no air pockets. Discard when soiled or no longer sticky (up to 5 uses). Make sure to avoid hair; if you don't, they can get stick to long hair.
2/The Original EarPlanes for Kids
EarPlanes are specifically designed for air travel with both adult and children’s sizes. The silicone plugs come in their own circular case. The packaging states that these earplugs are not reusable but can be used for a round trip. The plugs have a thinner design than Alpine Pluggies (see next product), but because they're a bit longer at 7/8-inch, my girls said that they felt like they were falling out of their ears and required constant readjustment. Even so, these earplugs did their job, keeping the air pressure discomfort to a minimum.
3/Alpine Pluggies Kids
Alpine Pluggies Kids are earplugs made specifically for air travel, too; the adult version is called FlyFit Earplugs. They come in their own travel case with insertion sleeves. The insertion sleeves aren’t really necessary, as it was easier just to hold on to the end of the plug and push in. These earplugs are completely reusable; just wash with warm water to remove any debris. They also can be customized by shortening the long stems, so that they don’t stick out too far; just make sure to take out the acoustic filters. These plugs were small, measuring ¾-inch in length. When using headphones, the earplugs still could be worn comfortably. Of all the brands tested, the Alpine Pluggies were my daughters’ favorites, as they fit well and didn’t cause any discomfort. Alpine also makes adult-sized travel plugs and sleep plugs.
All three products did make air travel much more comfortable for my kids. Earplugs designed for children are smaller than adult versions and fit better in smaller ears. On our last flight, the girls got to choose which product they wanted to use. Both chose Alpine Pluggies. In addition to helping relieve ear pressure, all of the earplugs reduced airplane noise, especially when traveling on prop planes.
Holly Thiel is lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters. When not traveling, she enjoys grading and playing in the creek in their backyard with her kids.
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