Everyone needs a bit of peace and quiet every now and then. For example when you are trying to concentrate on your work. But your colleagues have clearly already started their weekend. Or if you want to catch up on your sleep, but your neighbour’s children are charging through the garden screaming. At times like that, you may well wish soundproof earplugs existed. Ones that keep out all the nuisance noise. Do such earplugs exist?
Have you ever found earplugs that completely block off your hearing? Probably not. As far as we know, there are no earplugs that completely block out noise. There is a good explanation for that. Try completely blocking your ears with your fingers. Can you still hear anything? Louder noises will probably be very attenuated. But you can still hear them. Why is that?
Noise vibrations reach the eardrum via the air and your eardrum. This is called air conduction. Your cranial bone also transmits vibrations to the eardrum. This is called bone conduction. The eardrum passes the vibrations to the middle and inner ears. These signals are then passed to the brain. The brain coverts the signals into sound. So to summarise: earplugs that shut out all noise do not exist. Here is some more information and a short video about how hearing works.
So, soundproof earplugs that shut out all noise do not exist. But there are good earplugs that attenuate noise. Some earplugs attenuate more noise than others. What do you need to look out for? Firstly, greater attenuation is not always better. In an open-plan office, for example, you want the background buzz to cause minimum distraction. On the other hand, you want to hear if your colleague asks you a question.
Earplugs with a sound filter offer a solution. The filters ensure that any background noise is attenuated. But that you can still understand your colleagues. If you spend every night sleeping next to a partner who sounds like a group of chainsaws, you may well be looking for maximum attenuation. Customised earplugs with no filter offer the maximum achievable attenuation. The sound of snoring thus seems quieter. So it’s easier for you to fall asleep and you don’t get woken up as often.
Earplugs with no filter can leave you feeling excluded. Earplugs like these completely shut off your ear canal. Some people describe it as if they can hear their own blood flowing. Some people suffer from it more than others.
The inner ear also controls the sense of balance. The sense of balance sends the brain crucial information to enable you to keep your balance. Whether you are moving around or standing still. If you use maximum attenuation earplugs, they may prevent your sense of balance from working properly. This may cause dizziness. Maximum attenuation earplugs are thus used virtually only to help with sleep.
There is no such thing as soundproof earplugs. Because the cranial bone also transmits vibrations to the eardrum, you will still hear louder noises. If you are looking for earplugs that attenuate sound, you have various options. Foam earplugs, filter earplugs and customised earplugs.
Foam earplugs completely close off the ear and attenuate a reasonable amount of noise. They are not reusable and do not fit perfectly. As a result, they do not sit well for long. And that in turn affects the degree of attenuation.
Universal filter earplugs attenuate noise without making you feel shut out. Opt for high-attenuation SleepSoft or WorkSafe earplugs. You will still be able to hear your wake-up call or alarm. Would you prefer less attenuation? If so, go for the PartyPlug earplugs. They make noise less loud and ensure it is not harmful. But you can still understand a conversation.
Customised earplugs are available with or without a filter. You can choose filters that attenuate a lot of noise, or not so much. The filters are adapted to various uses, such as sleeping, going out or general tasks. Customised earplugs fit best, but are more expensive than universal earplugs.