Noise canceling headphones & the like: Help me stop the beat from going on.
February 20, 2010 4:08 PM   Subscribe

My husband's been playing drums for about a year, and he's getting really good. Yay! Unfortunately, I sometimes have a really hard time concentrating on my work when he's practicing. Help me find some gear that will give me the quiet I need.

Specifics: My husband plays V-Drums at home. This is an electronic kit, so it's not like I have to deal with the sound of Animal and Keith Moon in a duel-to-the-death, or anything. Volume-wise, it's more akin to someone repeatedly (but very skillfully) thwakking on a pickle bucket with a pair of wooden spoons. I actually enjoy it when I'm not also trying to teach myself something about DNA supercoiling.

For the record, my husband's very good about accommodating me: When I tell him that I really need total quiet for something, he obliges without question. I also have the option of packaging up my schoolwork and doing it elsewhere. But it'd be a lot nicer if we could work on our projects in the same place at the same time. We like being able to take breaks together and stuff.

I'd really like to find some kind of ear protection that will block out the drum noise as completely as possible. I'm not looking to cover up the drum sounds with music of my own: Music of any kind tends to mess me up when I'm trying to learn or analyze super-complicated material.

In shopping for solutions, I've found really expensive noise-canceling headphones that are designed for audiophiles, and I've found headgear meant to keep gun hobbyists and heavy equipment operators from getting nerve damage. I'm not sure that either of those categories of things will do what I want. (Ideally, I'd rather have some sort of headset rather than ear plugs, but that's not the most important criterion for purchase. )

So, what should I buy? Have any of you found a noise-obliterating solutions that you really like? Ideally, I'd like to spend about $60.00 or less on this, though of course cheaper is better-- and if you've had a truly amazing experience with something more expensive, I'll happily give it a look.

Thanks in advance!
posted by palmcorder_yajna to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I had a summer job where I used an industrial weedwhacker to trim grass. The only thing keeping us all from going deaf were industrial, headphone-like headgear. They fit all the way around your ear, pretty comfortably if they are padded correctly. I can't recommend a particular brand unfortunately, but you should definitely be looking at the industrial/gun gear.
posted by demagogue at 4:21 PM on February 20, 2010

Knowing how (pricey) active noise cancelling headsets work, I'd guess they'd perform poorly in the presence of percussive sounds like the sticks hitting the pads.

I second the recommendation for gun suppressor headsets; sporting goods stores and Star*Marts should carry what you need.
posted by fydfyd at 4:31 PM on February 20, 2010

We have some noise cancelling earmuffs for mowing the lawns and they really do a good job of muffling everything. They weren't terribly expensive or fancy at all and came from a hardware store. The thing that surprised me is how well they are at muffling sharp percussive type noises. I may still hear a little something if I listen carefully but that distracting edge is taken off and any residual sound is very small. They're kind of big and ugly but also surprisingly comfortable (I do have small ears which may help), I've worn them all day at various times when doing noisy stuff at work. You can probably at least try some out at the store and see if you think it might work?
posted by shelleycat at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2010

Do a google search for "iso phones" or "isolation headphones"... Prices are sort of all over the place but you can find pairs for $60 or so at the low end. I have a bunch that we used when recording... those babies absolutely saved my hearing!
posted by MeatLightning at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2010

Consumer grade noise canceling headphones/earbuds don't work that well. Noise blocking earbuds, which are essentially just foam earplugs with a tiny speaker element inside, work quite well. Since you don't need to listen to music, earbuds would be a waste. I'd just say get the little foam earplugs that are sold at music stores for $10-20. Not the really cheap disposable neon ones, but the ones that are a step up from that.
posted by DecemberBoy at 5:01 PM on February 20, 2010

I prefer to study in absolute silence also, which is rarely possible. So I made a pair of these jackhammer headphones.

If you do not like listening to music, you might try just piping some white noise in through them. I find the addition of the white/pink/red/brown noise helps cut out everything that manages to get through the padding. It helps drown out the distracting noises/music/conversation without giving my brain any new stuff to worry at.

If the white noise won't work, you might consider earplugs with the industrial earmuffs on top for extra noise-blocking. I sometimes did that, too, when I had nothing to hook the headphones to for whatever reason.

One last note: if you do the earmuff or earplug thing, at least for me, it makes me very conscious of my own breathing. It can be unnerving. The white noise is nice to make that sensation less creepy.
posted by ZeroDivides at 5:22 PM on February 20, 2010

Ear plugs will likely be the most comfortable and convenient ongoing solution. The key is to try a bunch and find the ones that fit you best. Every brand has a different feel/fit in your ear.

After that, allow yourself some time to get used to the odd sensation of wearing them. That can take a while but it's worth it. Once you are "good at" earplugs you'll probably find lots of situations where they will come in handy.
posted by quarterframer at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2010

you're going about it wrong; what you and he both need is THIS: And they're fantastic by the way, they've come a long way in terms of the technology. Just look for a highly rated set, and look in music stores websites too. You'll find an excellent set at a decent price and you'll both be *very* happy with the result. Its the only civilized thing to do, and virtually without compromise if you get a good set. (really).
posted by jak68 at 6:15 PM on February 20, 2010

(so you see -- HE gets to wear the headphones. You dig? And he'll be happy to do it if you get a quality set. They're that good these days).
posted by jak68 at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2010

OP said he is already using V-Drums; the best solution is over the ear hearing protectors. They are what I used to use when playing a real drum set in a concrete walled basement.
posted by thewalledcity at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2010

Lol, my apologies for wasting your time and mine ;) Thats what i get for not reading. ;(
posted by jak68 at 6:37 PM on February 20, 2010

You want something like this. If it needs batteries, it's a noise cancelling solution and they won't do much for your problem. You want the passive earmuffs that cost about $20 and block almost everything.
posted by chairface at 11:01 PM on February 20, 2010

This earmuffs chairface linked too are what I was talking about in my answer above. Mine are probably a different brand but otherwise the same thing.
posted by shelleycat at 1:41 AM on February 21, 2010

I ♥ my noise-cancelling headphones, but they're probably the wrong thing here -- they work well on white noise and not so much on anything else.

I'd try the Peltor chairface links to, or something like it. I find them uncomfortable for long use (part of why they work is because they clamp down on your head so much that there's a good seal.) If you were to use earplugs and these at the same time, you'd be hearing very little at all.
posted by Zed at 8:04 AM on February 22, 2010

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