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Who Invented Ear Plugs?

Earplugs are protective devices (noise water dust) inserted into the ear canal.

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Earplugs

Earplugs circa 1948

Getty Images/Photographer Bernard Hoffman
The inventors below made landmark improvements to earplugs, however, it is impossible to determine who invented the very first ear plug. Many ancient peoples created homemade ear plugs from clay, or cotton and wax to reduce noise or protect the ears from the environment i.e. water.

Moldable Pure Silicone Ear Plugs

Ray and Cecilia Benner invented the first moldable pure silicone ear plugs in 1962. The ear plugs were valued by swimmers, as well as those avoiding noise, for their waterproof qualities. McKeon Products marketed the new ear plugs known as Mack's Pillow Soft Earplugs.

Classical musician, Ray Benner bought McKeon Products in 1962. At that time the company's sole product was Mack's Earplugs (named after the original owner). Mack's Earplugs were moldable clay ear plugs. The Benners designed new ear plugs made from silicone, a waterproof material, to help prevent swimmer's ear, an infection of the ear caused by exposure to water. Mack's Pillow Soft Earplugs are also great noise stoppers.

Foam Ear Plugs

Ross Gardner invented foam ear plugs in 1972. They were first marketed by the Cabot Safety Company as the E-A-R Classic. Gardner got his idea from the soft padding used in headphones. Disposable foam ear plugs found in drugstores can reduce noise levels by 25 decibels. Foam ear plugs are made from either polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane.

Rating Ear Plugs

Earplugs are rated with an NRR (the acronym for Noise Reduction Rating). An NRR tells you how much noise reduction in decibels a set of ear plugs provides. Most ear plugs offer between a 26 to 33 reduction in decibels.

You can view several early or unusual patents for different ear plug styles in our Gallery of Famous Ear Plugs.

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