We get this question regularly. The answer is as unique as the person calling. Typically, the customer has tried a few drug store variety earplugs, so I usually recommend disposable foam ear plugs. These offer the most noise reduction of any ear protector and are more compact than any earmuff, which is critical for comfort.
But not all foam earplugs are created equal. There are two important factors to consider, and they have a direct impact on comfort: the size (diameter) of the ear canal and the expansion pressure of the foam itself.
In general, men have larger ear canals, so the range of plug options that will feel comfortable is wider. For women, and others with smaller ear canals, the choices are narrower. Choosing an ear plug that starts out smaller in diameter is usually a good first step.
The foam recipe used by manufacturers varies widely in firmness and rate of expansion. Most foam plugs are rolled between your fingers to a small, compressed diameter and then inserted into the ear canal. At this point the foam will expand to fill and seal off the ear canal. This effectively cuts off the vast majority of sound.
Though a greater expanding force dampens more sound, it can cause discomfort. This is why we often first recommend the Howard Leight LPF1 Max Lite (and/or LL1 Laser Lite). It offers the least amount of expansion force on the market.
A final word about noise reduction: Though sealing off the ear canal is extremely effective against high-pitched sounds, it does not always work against low-pitched sounds. The reason is that low (bass) pitch sounds are conducted through the bones in your head surrounding your ear.
So, if your significant other snores more like a bear than a bird, there is a practical limit to how much earplugs, or any other hearing protection device, will help. Otherwise, the hope is that blocking out the noise outweighs the slight discomfort and plugged-up feeling of using earplugs.