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May 12, 2016

BehindTheMedspeak: Mack's — World's Best Earplugs


It's not even close.

Take it from someone who's used earplugs since he had a morning paper route in Milwaukee (the Sentinel) at ages 11-12 in 1959-60, requiring my presence at the newspaper pickup shed at 4:45 a.m. sharp seven days a week.

When I returned home at 6:30 a.m. to get one more hour of sleep while the rest of the house woke up, even with a giant fan next to my bed providing white noise, sleep would've been impossible without earplugs.

Alas, at that time the best available ones were Flent's Anti-Noise Ear Stopples, which worked fine but left a nasty slippery residue on your fingers since they were made mostly of wax impregnated with cotton to keep the wax together.

I used those every night from that time on even after I quit my paper route and moved on to being a night shift gas station attendant at the Clark station on 50th and Lisbon the summer after I turned 16, sleeping during the day with the aid of my trusty fan and those earplugs. 

Then, soon after starting college at U.C.L.A. in 1966, I happened on Mack's earplugs in some drugstore in Westwood Village. 

Angels sang and doves circled (figuratively) as I inserted them only to find they were 1) far more comfortable than Flent's; 2) cheaper than Flent's; 3) most importantly, far better at molding to the contours of my external ear canal and keeping noise out.

At that time Mack's were only available only in a light grey adult size which were way too big for me to stuff deeply into my ear (you're not supposed to do that, it says in the instructions, but if you don't you won't get nearly the sound attenuation possible from forbidden placement).

I cut the adult-sized plugs in two and used the halves as a pair.

The grey adult version (below)


is still their flagship and costs $3.76 for a box of six pair which, if you use them as I did and break each one in half, are actually 12 pair.

The bright orange kids version — half the size of their grey adult earplug — that I've used for decades fits an adult's outer ear canal perfectly.

These earplugs are made of silicone putty — there's no wax or cotton to leave any residue on your fingertips or in your ears.

They warm up to body temperature quickly once inserted and from that point on are unnoticeable.

Sound attenuation —22dB— dwarfs that of all other in-ear earplugs, whether they be made of wax, cotton, foam rubber, etc.

A box of the fluorescent orange kids version pictured below costs $2.48 for six pair.


They're far easier to locate than the light grey iteration after they occasionally fall out while you're sleeping, lodging in all manner of places.

I keep a third one under my pillow in case I wake up in the middle of the night from some noise only to find I've only got one earplug in situ.

Tip: do as I do and throw them out every two weeks and use a fresh pair.


Because they get dirty with shmutz: dust, ear wax, newsprint, cat hair (in my case — your circumstances may result in other types of hair/fur becoming embedded), etc.

A $2.48 box will last you three months if you follow this routine.

Oh, yeah, one last thing: about once every couple years I push one in too far such that I can't retrieve it with my fingertips.

No problema for me since knowing the anatomy of the external ear canal as I do as a result of my medical training, I can manipulate my outer ear such that while looking in a mirror I can stick a tweezers into my ear to pluck out the earplug in a Charlottesville yoctosecond and Bob's your uncle.

You, you won't want to try that at home.

Instead, find a friend who's not grossed out by the prospect and have her/him use a tweezers to remove it for you.

The bright orange color once again helps a lot in terms of seeing it, wedged down there in your ear canal.

If that's not happening, well, join the great unwashed in a hospital ER or urgent care clinic and they'll do it for you, but only after laughing at you behind your back and charging you an arm and a leg to be the butt of their jokes.

Fair warning.

May 12, 2016 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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