How Can I Hear Less?
July 29, 2007 6:24 AM   Subscribe

What is the most effective way of reducing the sound of other people: voices, music, traffic, all the stuff that encroaches on silence. Is there a really efficient earplug or headphone that will work or some external machine that will counter noise effectively?
posted by jennydiski to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't used any of them but noise-cancelling headphones seem to be effective.
posted by kepano at 6:43 AM on July 29, 2007

Check out this thread.
posted by strawberryviagra at 6:43 AM on July 29, 2007

I haven't found anything more effective than foam earplugs. They work pretty well for me though: block out all traffic noise, and small parties by the upstairs neighbours.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:44 AM on July 29, 2007

Best answer: Here's a link to a few Ask Metafilter threads on noise canceling headphones.
As an alternative, similar to the ventilator that Wittgenstein reportedly used, I've tried listening to a pink noise mp3 recording on my mp3 player but I found it tiring.
posted by jouke at 6:51 AM on July 29, 2007

If you want SILENCE, as opposed to your own music, most drugstores carry jars of 31db earplugs ... 100 pairs for like $10 or so.

Cheapest and most effective way I know to shut out the outside world.
posted by Malor at 7:20 AM on July 29, 2007

I concur: the blue- or cream-colored foam earplugs are the cheapest and best way. I've tried noise-canceling headphones, electric fans (for the white noise), computer-based white-noise generators, and listening to music. But for working, only the foam earplugs do the trick. They're cheap, consistent, portable, and low-tech. I wear them during air travel and sleep, too.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:42 AM on July 29, 2007

Best answer: Silence is hard. Even with foam earplugs, I still notice the louder noises. They aren't absolutely loud, but still relatively loud.

So I've had better luck using in-ear phones, which act like the earplugs in terms of blocking external noise, plus some ambient music to distract the ear and drown out the relatively quiet external noises that are left.
posted by smackfu at 7:51 AM on July 29, 2007

There's a company called Sensaphonics that does custom ear plugs. Haven't used them myself, but they look very appealing.

ps. Can I mention here that I'm a fan of your books?
posted by judith at 8:57 AM on July 29, 2007

Best answer: You marked Smackfu as having a best answer, so let me try and expand on that a bit:

Some high-end in-ear headphones allowed me to sleep through a flight from LAX to Boston a few days ago while stuck in the last row of a 757 (magpie-chattery stewardesses, flushing lavatories, roaring engines). However, I doubt anyone who doesn't work in audio wants to pay $300 (or $180) for a pair of headphones.

The problem is that most budget ( < $70 ) in-ear headphones have a very shallow fit, which will significantly reduce their ability to block ambient sound. i can't speak to their sound quality, but a href="">these two were the cheapest sets I could find that looked like they'd provide a good, deep, tight fit. I know the Etymotics have a pretty decent reputation for sound quality as well.

If you're looking for something a little better in quality with a fit I can speak towards without going quite as high as my E4Cs, try these.

If you've got a tight fit, you should be set particularly as regards bass - try going for some very light ambient music/soundscape stuff that trends towards the mid-range frequencies and you should be as close to isolated as is reasonably possible.
posted by Ryvar at 9:53 AM on July 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

My apologies, these two.
posted by Ryvar at 9:55 AM on July 29, 2007

Depending on the application you may just want to go with something to mask sounds. If you are in a house or apartment and you have distracting or annoying noises, you may want to consider just having a fan going. This worked pretty well for me when I was trying to sleep in an apartment that was in a noisy location.

This is really just reducing the perception of noise, and not actually producing silence. Cheap noise cancelling headphones are not recommended for that, they don't really work that well. Ear plugs can help, to a certain extent, and they are very cheap to try.
posted by jefeweiss at 10:06 AM on July 29, 2007

The foam ones are pretty effective. I found them uncomfortable at first & a lot of people do, but it's possible to get used to them.

If you want to go the custom ear plug route and audiologist should be able to hook you up - they are used to taking molds of people's ears. My audiologist at least offers both custom earplugs and custom headphones.
posted by yarrow at 10:58 AM on July 29, 2007

The problem is that most budget ( < $70 ) in-ear headphones have a very shallow fit, which will significantly reduce their ability to block ambient sound./i>

I've been very happy with a $30 pair of Sony MDR-EX71SL. Given that, people's ears have different shapes, and YMMV.

posted by smackfu at 11:45 AM on July 29, 2007

there are two different types of headphones that counter noise. Active noise cancelling like the bose headphones($300) , reverse the soundwave hence cancelling the sound . These type of headphones need batterie and are usually good around the house.

The other type of headphones are called passive noise cancellation. Example of these types are shure, etymotic etc. ( $100+). These headphones have earbuds that go directly to inside your ears. When you are playing anytype of music , they will block signifact amount of sound.

If you have any other questions regarding headphones, I will be happy to answer them.
posted by radsqd at 2:49 PM on July 29, 2007

Have you considered going the cheap route? I would only do this if I wasn't leaving the comfort of my own home, but...

You can get a pair of ear protectors like the ones they use for jackhammers at your local big box hardware store for about $20. Put your ear buds in, cover your ears with the jackhammer ear muffs, enjoy the music.

It won't block out the butt-thumping subwoofer in the neighbor's El Camino, but it will block out the noise from conversations, television shows, migrating geese, etc.
posted by jknecht at 9:51 AM on July 30, 2007

Holy Shit! Jenny Diski's on Metafilter!
posted by claudius at 7:43 PM on August 1, 2007

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