Why Ear Plugs could make your Urban Survival more Bearable

Ear Plugs

If you watch video footage of urban emergency events that include sound, like 9/11, you notice the constant stream of sirens. If they are that loud on tape imagine how it must be on the ground.

You could be really glad you packed a couple sets of disposable ear plugs in your Urban Survival Bag for a couple of reasons.

Getting Home

First, you might just have to walk across the whole city to get home. Your day is going to be bad enough, and with the sirens running all day as they will be, it would be nice to be able to hear yourself think. Not only for the quiet, but also because it might help you calm down and be able to assess the situation better.

Sirens are a psychological trigger for emergency and they could cause unneeded anxiety at a time when you need to be thinking clearly about every move you make.

Helping Others

Secondly, what if you are purposely going to be staying in the area for an extended period of time? If you have assessed the situation and determined that you are not in immediate danger you may want to stay and help rescue others.

Ear plugs are one of the little things no one will be thinking about, but if you going to spend the next 8 to 12 hours digging people out of rubble with a couple hundred fire trucks and ambulances going by constantly they could really make things easier.

In my experience the cheap foam earplugs are the best. You can get a pack of 200 for less than twenty dollars and they block up to 33 decibels.

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

survivor_1997 April 3, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Waring ear plugs could have the downside of distracting you from your surroundings, allowing someone to sneak up on you unheard.


Lucas_SurvCache April 5, 2010 at 7:12 am


That's a good point and something people should remember.

For this recommendation I was thinking more of either getting out of a city, where there might not be too much worry of people sneaking up on you because there are people running around everywhere. OR If you decide you are ok, and stay for the rescue process, drowning out the sirens could make your day a lot better.


Josh April 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm

That makes since. Another thing, when you practice with your firearm at the range you always ware ear protection. If you were to be in a fire-fight the extra noise could possibly mess up your aim/balance, so by slipping on your ear plugs you can create a more comfortable shooting atmosphere giving you the edge over your opponent.


yatahey July 2, 2010 at 12:01 am

WSHTF your going to need all our senses. If you have been in a position were your life is in
imminent danger your senses become very acute. The military has for years tried to artificially duplicate this phenomanon. Why? Because in that heightened state you're in a survival mode. You can super hear, super smell and super see. So if your walking through an alley you need to hear what's coming behind you. And if your going to get into a fire fight do you think your opponent is going to give you the time to put in ear plugs? You guys have either got to be kidding or your too young to realize what it actually means to survive in a confrontation. Its not like a game were you get 20 lives. You will only have one chance, if you're going to survive you need to get it right the first time.


Lucas_SurvCache July 3, 2010 at 8:22 pm


I think you misunderstand my point. I am not suggesting that people in a true-SHTF life or death scenario wear earplugs. That would be stupid.

My point was for a few specific situations. Take 9/11 for example:

1. If you have to walk out miles and miles home, likely no one is trying to kill you they are all just trying to get home too. It might be useful to drown at the constant sirens and be able to think a little more clearly.

2. If you stay and help with rescue – it's going to be LOUD and if you are out there working all day and night, it would also be nice to save your hearing.


yatahey July 3, 2010 at 11:17 pm

In those scenerios that would work. however, I'd like to hear the cars as they're getting close to me, even though the sirens would drive me crazy-better crazy then run over. And if i stayed to help and it wasn't a survival situation, I'd still like to hear the guy on the back hoe as he swings his 1 ton bucket by me and yells, "move, your in my way"! It's a survival thing with me.


sloprepper July 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Ear plugs, as far as I'm concerned, are a very useful and easy-to-carry tool. Even in a survival situation that is beyond helping with rescue efforts or walking through the loud aftermath of a disaster a pair (or several) is good to have on hand.

I have a pair with me at all times. A key chain pill container (they have them on every "vitamin/supplement" aisle in almost any grocery store) is a good way to carry them. Foam earplugs fit nicely in these types of containers and, really, when do you leave home without your keys?

If you're doing something loud (I'm thinking breaching a door or other "survival work" with a shotgun or improvised explosive of some type) in an area you know is safe, it's worth they extra effort to save your eardrums some trauma. Your body and physical well-being are the most valuable tools in any survival scenario and protecting yourself from unnecessary harm could make a big difference down the line.


RudeBoy August 2, 2010 at 4:52 am

There are also a lot of noise cancelling ear plugs on the market. They allow everything below potentially damaging decibel ranges to be heard and cancel everything out above that range. Not all of them are expensive or electronic either. Surefire makes a basic mechanical (non electronic) pair for around $15. I have some of these that I use on the range and they work well. I carry them in my EDC bag. I always thought they could be useful in some scenarios like tactical situations involving cars, breaching, atv/open vehicle use etc.


Josh December 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I also have a pair of Surefire EP3 Sonic defenders, they work very well.


Pat August 13, 2010 at 3:47 am

Rudeboy makes a good point. A guy in the factory I worked in (where we were required to wear at least ear plugs on the floor) had a pair of these. You could hear people talk but it blocked out the factory noise better than the earplugs.

Also, if you're just looking for cheap, normal ear plugs there are white ones that are just straight cylinders (no taper) and a little harder than the standard tapered bright orange/yellow ones. They're a little uncomfortable at first but in my experience once you wear them for a bit you get used to them and they are just as comfortable as the other type and they block out more sound in my experience. There are also the earplugs made especially for musicians, I've never used these myself but my roommate who played guitar had them and said they worked very well and they're not that expensive.


Sage September 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

This situation is easily solved by getting a pair of electronic ear protectors. Sound proof headphones that mic normal (safe) sound levels and blocks out dangerous sound. Allowing you to hear quiet noises (even what direction they originate from) and protecting your ears from gunshots, sirens and other high decipal noises. In my experience if I just went thru a couple of clips without ear protection I might not be able to hear someone sneaking up on me anyway. Also dont just rely on your hearing, don't focus on one thing so much your not paying attention to anything else. Always be looking for the next surprise you might encounter. Never stop looking around.


Steve September 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Earplugs have been part of my BOB since I made my first one in the early 80s. Aside from the things you mentioned they keep debris/bugs out of your ears. A good night's sleep can be destroyed by any number of noises, from vehicles to animals to insects. I wore earplugs every night for years and would still jump out of bed if someone walked in the room.


blackbeard October 10, 2010 at 8:09 am

.38 special cases make great earplugs. seriously. Empty ones might be better :)
Of course you look odd – that might be an advantage!


Sharky99 January 3, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Another reason to have earplugs in your bug out bag- If you have to bug out to a shelter, it may be very noisy.


Frances February 16, 2011 at 11:47 am

I'm from NYC and I was there on 9/11. The one thing I remember most is the sirens. To this day every time I hear a siren I think of that day. The entire city was filled with sirens.


T.Rapier February 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

I travel quite a bit because of my job , and use earplugs a lot . Got tired of buying a box load of them because they get lost easily or fall out in your sleep ( not talking survival situation here ) So I went down to the local outdoor store and got some that are attached to each other by a cord . Much better now :)


junkedships March 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I'd recommend at least a Pen light to the Get Me Home Bag. Cubicles walls block alot of natural sunlight from the windows.


Ben228 April 5, 2011 at 11:46 am

My EDC is 2 lights, 2 knives (one is a Leatherman) a light duty and a heavy duty pair of gloves. Big believer in ” one is none!”


bob March 30, 2011 at 11:52 pm

sorry i dont buy it. too many idiots would stick a gun in your ribs in a bad situation. looters, robbers, muggers trying to score a cash giveaway. someone not fully intuned to their surroundings. yes sirens are an annoyance, but it beats getting run over by a cop car when you cant hear it screaming up the road. im fine with using ear protection from gunshots , but lets be real about scenarios please.


Ben228 April 5, 2011 at 11:38 am

Sonic noise cancellation maybe, ear plugs I don’t think so. I might throw one in my strong ear, it’s an age thing, to save parsule (sp) hearing but I’d want more situational awareness then ear plugs leave me. The disaster is going to disorienting enough without deafening myself!


kife June 25, 2011 at 5:39 pm

these comments… look, wearing earplugs in an emergency is stupid. that should be obvious. but sleep is important for survival. high winds and other noise makes it difficult to get sleep. use earplugs that lower but don't completely block outside noise. get a pair that is connected with a cord. epoxy glow in the dark powder to the cord. they are easy to lose in the dark.


Colt July 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

The thing that really bothers me about the majority of the survival community is that everyone is obsessed with the idea of suddenly declaring war on all other members of humanity. You're going to find that form of SHTF situation almost never. It unfortunately, and at times correctly, paints the survival community of being full of antisocial whackjobs frothing at the mouth for the loss of any concept of social responsibility and order just for a chance to run around looting and killing sprees. Strategic use of phrases like 'Bad Guy' make for doublespeak. What everyone's really in it for is to play out their Vietcong fantasy.

Prepare yourself for real things like hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, riots, etc. These situations do not instantly turn every other human being into a zombie. Zombie scenarios are a fun exercise in planning for absolutely anything, but they're not a reality. When SHTF you should be ready to work with people and help people. Getting the hell out so you can reach a safe enough area to regroup is sometimes a good idea and you should be ready to do that, but if you're actually a human being you should realize that you are FAR more likely to be reacting to a SHTF scenario by (like this wonderful article finally recognizes) jumping in to help.

You shouldn't be carrying a crowbar just to go looting people's houses. You should be carrying that crowbar mainly understanding that you're going to be using it to pry some poor old lady out of a collapsed house or car.

Remember that your dinky little hand-sized medical kit is going to be absolutely worthless when you've got a school bus full of kids needing patched up. Government first responders are not only out to kill you and put your head on a pole outside the city hall. Some time you're going to find yourself in dire need of some backup trying to put out a fire at your workplace and you're going to want to get their attention despite all the phones being down and so on.

I have guns, but I don't expect to go on a shooting spree killing bad guys. It could be used for dire self-defense situations (which are a hell of a lot more likely without a SHTF scenario) but my weapons are far more likely to be used for, and are built for, things like hunting squirrels and rabbits to feed myself, my child, and even my friends and neighbors that would come to my place seeking refuge because they know I have the ability to handle these kinds of situations.

Ear plugs are a bad idea with evil bad guys stalking you in the night. They're not a bad idea when you're trapped by a levee breach and you've got your neighbor who has a one story house and a baby take refuge with you in your very cramped attic.

Don't think about building your own little isolated island in a post-apocalyptic scenario. Think about your whole neighborhood full of yuppies and having the resources to turn your neighbors into farm hands and carpenters to help you feed not just yourself but everyone else.

In real disasters people almost always band together and help each other. If you go around acting like there are no rules anymore and it's everyone for themselves at any cost you will eventually land yourself in jail when things are finally put back together.


D21BRAVO October 19, 2011 at 7:40 am

WSHTF there will be no law enforcement, they will be home taking care of their families. That is the time when you want out of the city, that is the time you carry your weapon locked and loaded, I live in a small community surrounded by 2 large cities that are about 15 miles away. The people in those cities will eventually send scouting parties out to look for food, water or anything else they can take from you. Not everyone is a survivor or has the skills to find water, or gather food from nature. So where do you think these people…which will be the majority are going to get their needed supplies? yeap…from you. We are not talking tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards..we are talking WSHTF. When you and only you can make a difference wheter you and your family survives.


Urbivalist Dan April 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Thank you. Your comment rings true here brother. And it reminds me of Neil Strauss' book "Emergency."

In the beginning of his journey, he was all about "me verses the bad guys." His preps were secretive lone wolf preps.

In the end however, he had come to realize that the greatest thing about REAL preparedness was the ability to help other people when there the need was the greatest. Obviously you can't help everybody in the world, but if you have the ability to help your neighbors or an old lady out, so much the better.

And you're right, people do band together. I've lived in San Diego most of my life, and I can't count the number of conversations I've had with total strangers after big earthquakes. That's what made me eventually start talking to some neighbors that I never had. Since the beginning of time, people have gathered to live in cities for a reason…

Preach on Colt.


Sharpie January 16, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Man, where do some of you guys get your ear plugs that you can't hear at all!?!?!? Because with mine, I still hear most of the things going on around me, a car coming up behind me? I could hear it. a guy coming up? If I could hear it w/o ear pro, I could with ear plugs. You don't want to be deaf by wearing ear plugs? You will be deaf by sirens, here they are friggen loud!! What about gun shots? Some people have said "train like you fight to get used to it" well if you shoot w/o hearing protection "to train" you'll go deaf anyways, which eliminates the disadvantages of wearing ear pro in the first place.

Just my "not-so-humble" opinion


jessiecrafty1 February 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Earplugs are not just for urban survival. They can be useful for social survival, be that of someone who wont shut the heck up no matter how many times you tell them to do so. It can get grating after awhile and i wouldnt want to be near or holding a weapon in that situation. in that case a pair of earplugs is a godsend. i speak from experience……aka live with a nerved up "witchy at times" mother in law. i have had many occasions when they came in handy during a blackout. of course some vallium would probably worked as well


Urbivalist Dan April 23, 2012 at 7:36 pm

As a handful of people have said, earplugs are INVALUABLE for sleeping.

I did a 3 day Urban MBO in downtown San Diego, and slept right under the flight path one night. The noise sucked so bad that the only way I got ANY sleep was by making giant spit wad earplugs. haha gross but effective (posted some videos about it actually).

Great post guys!


Morgan September 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

There is another value to earplugs which is often overlooked: operating machinery. I learned about this from my Dad riding motorcycles long distance. He wears earplugs and they help him feel a LOT less fatigued. Something about the vibration of the bike or something. I wear them when mowing the lawn and find the same thing is true.

I always keep earplugs around for all the reasons mentioned in the article, to avoid getting tired when using machinery, and to have handy if I want to go to the range and shoot a few rounds.


Mr. Keef December 22, 2012 at 6:58 pm

And don't forget, you can choose when and if to wear the ear plugs. If the situation calls for ear plugs wear them, if not, don't!


Guest October 4, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I think I'll deal with screaming and explosions just to make sure I'm at my most aware. Not sold on earplugs, sorry…


HTN November 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Excellent article here. Like mentioned prior, they definitely have variations on the market which allow you to hear any and everything just fine. I wear them at work, daily. (Industrial construction inspector.) I can hear just fine at all levels of people talking. __The type I wear protect your hearing without interfering with your ability to hear routine sounds or conversations. Their double-flanged-stem design fits most people and provides a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 24dB. Sounds, at safe levels, are allowed to pass through into the ear canal, while potentially harmful noises (above 85dB) are reduced via a proprietary design that incorporates a special noise-reducing filter. EP-3 Sonic Defenders. Mine cost less than $10 and are washable and reusable. I've been using my current pair for a year. __It's obvious from the comments that most folks on here have no experience with any ear plugs and therefore incorrectly believe they would be useless in a BO situation. Educate yourselves folks and try not to discount things you know nothing about.


Roger February 3, 2014 at 8:50 pm

I agree with HTN, I prefer the type of ear plugs with the mechanical reduction, because as any Irishman can tell you, those batteries will die just as soon as you really need them! Are they expensive, how much is your hearing worth! Equally important in my opinion are safety glasses or googles, since even a minute amount of dirt/dust in your eye(s) can ruin your day as well as much worse if SHTF and you're blinded, even temporarily! Hopefully your neighbors will stay your friends when things turn south, but preparing for the alternative is why many of us are on this website in the first place! Better safe than sorry! Good Luck!


Jack June 1, 2014 at 3:51 am

The guys that want to be super aware in all situations? You'll be able to tell them because they'll be looking panicky and swivelling their heads round continuously, wide eyed and dangerous. Keep well away from them, they'll think that you're a threat to them because you're on the other side of the street.


Lady A April 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I agree


person July 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

But it can be help full for remembering your bug out plan.


Rod Markland December 31, 2011 at 10:35 am

If you are going to be intelligent enough to survive anything, you will need to be smart enough to realize that there is no one size fits all survival scenario. Its better to be looking at it than for it. Hostility is not the only survival situation you might find yourself in. You obviously would not want ear plugs in if you were in a dangerous situation, that's a no brainer. They would come in very handy and could also have multiple uses. Additionally, if you needed to drown out the noise to sleep and stay rested in a SHTF scenario, you could use them to take turns resting. I thought it was a great idea that I had not thought of and for the size and weight impact that they would have in any survival kit, I think you would be a fool not to have them.


Adam November 19, 2011 at 8:20 am

I wear earplugs at work most of most days. It sounds counterintuitive, but with them in, in certain situations, you can actually hear better. If you block out most of the background noise, like sirens or machinery, or people yelling you will hear everything else. Very similar to riding a motorcycle on the freeway. If you wear earplugs the wind noise gets blocked and you can hear cars approaching and even other people talking.


guest June 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm

actually ear plugs can help you hear BETTER in certain conditions………try this experiment…..the next time you are at a baseball/football game, or any event that has alot of loud constant noise, plug your ears with your fingers and talk to someone next to you. you will notice that you can actually hear them better with your ears plugged. Ive done it for years. However, you will not be able to hear someone yelling at you from a distance as well in the same conditions. SO it depends on the conditions. It all depends on the surroundings.


Rod Markland December 31, 2011 at 10:39 am

I was thinking that they would also help your ears stay clean in certain situations. If you were downtown NYC when the SHTF on 9/11, they might have helped keep the junk out of your ears. I would say that even short term protection might help with long term safety.


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