I first discovered earplugs as a college senior during a particularly trying exam period. They have become an indispensable part of my nightly ritual, and have generally improved my quality of life. I strongly recommend them to any hypersensitive, neurotic, sleep-disordered, concentration-requiring freak, caught in the midst of the overcrowded, paper-thin-walled wonders of urban living.


The night before my advanced bio-organic chemistry final. I've studied more than is reasonably possible, yet I am still contemplating the possibility of failing. Currently, the class average is 23%. I try desperately to get some sleep. I am awakened by the muffled sounds of coy giggling, rambunctious teasing, dormitory-issue bedsprings squeaking ever so slightly, increasing in rhythmic frequency: Liz and her boyfriend having ineffectual sex, yet again. This was becoming a nightly problem in my solitary, equation-filled existence. I get up and summon my roommate, who had the good fortune of choosing the bedroom on the opposite side of the living room from the lovebirds. All she had to endure was 'The Little Mermaid' soundtrack on endless repeat and lots of Prince.

"You've got to hear this," I say, "I just can't put up with it for much longer."

My roommate, expert on matters sexual, listens intently for a few moments, furrows her brow and states: "Yeah, well, she's not enjoying it."

This gives me small comfort in my quest for sleep; if it's going to keep me awake, it had better be good sex.

After that, I went out and bought my first pair of earplugs.

Since then, I have used my earplugs on a regular basis. My sleep is deeper, the phone no longer wakes me, my dreams are more vivid, and my hearing remains intact (I once asked an audiologist if chronic earplug use had any long-term effects. She looked at me, quizzically, and said: "Well, as long as you're not using them during the day, it shouldn't be a problem.").

Situations where earplugs are handy: transatlantic flights, youth hostels filled with snorers and early morning plastic bag rustlers, noisy libraries, inconsiderate neighbours...

The Best Earplugs: I hate the wax ones. The little yellow cylindrical ones are OK, if pressed, but they don't tend to fit the ear canal. The ones to buy are the bright orange, soft, foamy ones, shaped like small, round cones and available at most drugstores for around $2.99.

Enjoy the silence.