What are good ear plugs that are effective and that I can sleep in?
November 18, 2011 9:06 PM   Subscribe

What are some good ear plugs available that are capable of muffling subwoofers?

I have a neighbor who likes to party on the weekends and I work early mornings on the weekends. I'm looking for an ear plug solution that will be able to muffle reggaeton blasting from a subwoofer next to my bedroom wall at 3 am. I have yet to attempt to soundproof the wall with fabric but I'm finding out that the three white noise machines I'm using and the flimsy ear plugs from Duane Reade aren't cutting it. Are there earplugs that might be able to cancel out some of that noise? How about the ones that roadies use? Would they be comfortable enough to sleep in?
posted by Stynxno to Technology (18 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There are a few kinds of foam earplugs at drugstores and/or hardware stores that are use-a-few-times disposable. They'll have the db reduction on the label. I'm not sure how they perform for low end specifically. I find that they sometimes loosen or fall out in sleep, but they're cOmfortable enough and cheap, it's worth a try. Could also consult a music supply shop like Musician's Friend for higher end and even custom ones.
posted by Occula at 9:12 PM on November 18, 2011

Go cheap first, because part of what you're hearing is actually resonating in your walls, floors, windows and even your own chest. The best earplugs in the world may only provide a partial solution.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:33 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Have you asked him to move the subwoofer? The bass travels through the walls and floors. Earplugs are only going to be minimally helpful for low frequencies.
posted by empath at 9:49 PM on November 18, 2011

I found this buyer's guide when I was looking to buy a bunch to sleep with. I went with his top recommendation, Hearos Ultimate Softness. I got nine boxes, and they are awesome.
posted by abcde at 9:52 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use earplugs when sleeping and the foam ones always fall out. The malleable, wax-like ones work best in remaining in your ear and blocking out noise, though as others have said, the vibrations are the issue.
posted by mlis at 10:17 PM on November 18, 2011

I'm a fan of the SilentEar silicone earplugs, which you can buy here. They certainly muffle enough bass at Burning Man to make sleeping possible.

abcde: your link to the buyer's guide is broken.
posted by xil at 10:37 PM on November 18, 2011

Does your bed have feet? Get some vibration isolators to go between them and the floor.
posted by rhizome at 11:25 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

One of my friends went on for like 5 minutes about how awesome Hearo's were. Since they're earplugs its hard to take him seriously, but slate likes them. And consumer reviews is what Slate does... wait.. what is it again that Slate.com does best?
posted by midmarch snowman at 12:37 AM on November 19, 2011

These are what I use when I need to leave the office at work. I work in a very large heavy industrial facility. They don't block everything, but they're the most effective hearing protection I've found so far.
posted by TrialByMedia at 5:47 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think you are approaching this wrong. In most jurisdictions, if you can hear your neighbor's stereo in your apartment, it's too loud.

1. Talk to your neighbor.
2. Talk to the property manager if it's an apartment
3. Call in a noise complaint to the police.
posted by COD at 6:11 AM on November 19, 2011

Response by poster: I think you are approaching this wrong. In most jurisdictions, if you can hear your neighbor's stereo in your apartment, it's too loud.

You're right. Problem is, I've done all these things to no avail. Noise canceling is now one of my few options (while I keep filing noise complaints, bugging the property manager, etc. every time it happens).
posted by Stynxno at 6:28 AM on November 19, 2011

Maybe you could turn your stereo up to 11 on your way out the door in the morning...
posted by COD at 6:40 AM on November 19, 2011

An audiologist pointed me at Etymotic ER-20s a while back and they work extremely well, though depending on how you take to them it may be weird for sleeping (they go quite far into the ear).

As others have said, low frequencies are really just very hard for passive ear protection to stop. (Not to delve too deeply, but the amount of damping is more-or-less proportional to the number of sound wavelengths that fit into the material. Everything in bass clef has a wavelength of over a meter, so the that's less than 1% of a wavelength that fits into your 1cm earplugs.)

Super-low frequencies are really a job for active noise canceling. A heavy noise-canceling headphone like Bose would (I imagine) be hard to sleep in, but I have a lightweight pair like these Sennheisers that I've used for sleeping in airplanes, and they work great. (They also show up on woot from time to time.)
posted by range at 7:39 AM on November 19, 2011

Low frequency noises are much more difficult to block out. Especially the bass-thumping kinds. By the way, I am someone with severe insomnia, and ADHD, and am CAPD, and am highly sensitive to noise.

For "neighbor is playing loud thumping bass til 3am and I have to be awake at 7am," this was my solution:

1) silicone earplugs in ears
2) closed-ear earphones over my ears, the kinds of earphones that are rated to block noise better than normal
3) I created a static mp3 sound loop that was like white noise, made it an hour long, and had it gradually taper at the edges so it'd loop seamlessly while I slept
4) I listened to that white noise thru the silicone earplugs thru with the earphones over my ears.

This would block out a wide variety of noises. If the bass thumping was especially bad, I'd add this step:

5) a noisy fan ON THE BED right next to my pillow. The whirring and vibration of the fan cancels out the incoming bass frequencies from the neighbors.

It's a little intensive, this setup, but I found I could sleep through ANYTHING this way. Of course, I would never do this long-term. But it's good for semi-temporary solutions.

Other than this, to block out noises requires construction, building a room suspended within a room, specialized materials, which is usually too much for renting, apartment living.

Good luck!
posted by siddhartha_in_costume at 12:12 PM on November 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nothing drowns out sub-woofers, because the vibration comes through your body as well as your ears. The least-ineffective place for insulation is on your neighbor's side of the wall, but deep bass is non-directional, so you can't get rid of all of it.

The Ear Plug Superstore has an inexpensive selection of high-attenuation plugs which are as good as available and do a pretty good job on bass. I have big ear canals and usually use the Howard Leight Max, but there are smaller and softer ones in the selection, too.

Another possibility is sound-cancelling headphones like the super-expensive Bose, which block steady low-frequency noise (like airplane engine noise) very well, but pounding sub-bass is another story. The headphones let you listen to your own music, which helps.
posted by KRS at 3:25 PM on November 19, 2011

My own research suggests that going to a gun store and finding a custom-ear plug maker is the most reliable way of getting ear plugs which actually work (I think they are around $50, so a little pricey if it doesn't work out). That is my personal plan in case I ever have a screaming baby, but I imagine it would be a decent bet for reggaeton as well! Good luck.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:16 PM on November 19, 2011

I was also going to suggest a noisy fan (and once heard of somebody in NYC who worked the night shift, and slept with two fans going) but in a small room, all that air blowin' arond can be a problem.
posted by Rash at 10:50 PM on November 19, 2011

Call the cops on your asshole neighbor. Most residential areas have legally defined quiet hours. Keep on calling the cops out every time. You're not going to get into trouble with cops, property managers, or whatever for calling in his inappropriate behavior.
posted by billybunny at 10:41 PM on November 21, 2011

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