Offices today are often noisy places, yet your work demands concentration. To further complicate matters, you need to be able to hear the phone ring and your boss speak when she stops by at your desk... a tall order indeed. Here are my best suggestions, ranging from the ear plugs that let you hear the most sound, to those that approach artificial silence.
Light Noise Protection: Musician's Ear Plugs
Like most people, you may just need to take the edge off the noise so that you can concentrate better. Simply dropping the volume by a quarter to half can help you preserve your sanity, reduce your stress level, and let you really concentrate on your work, resulting in a far more relaxed and productive day at the office. This level of noise protection will allow you to carry on conversations whenever needed, without having to remove your ear plugs.
To accomplish a 25-50% reduction in noise, we suggest that you use Musician Ear Plugs. These use acoustic filters to reduce the volume while still letting you hear almost everything... just at a reduced volume. Musician ear plugs range in price from a buck or two a pair up to a couple hundred (for custom pro models), but for most people, a great pair of musician ear plugs can be had for $10-20.
Musicians Ear Plugs for Work
Pros: take the edge off, still hear clearly, can have conversations while wearing, pro custom versions available, lasts a long time
Cons: only blocks a little sound, more expensive than other ear plugs
Moderate Noise Protection: Reusable Ear Plugs
If you need more protection than you can get with natural sound musician ear plugs, I would suggest that you consider a solid reusable ear plug. These will be more effective in blocking voices and music, so carrying on conversations will be more difficult, but concentration should be enhanced and distraction reduced. You can buy many different kinds of reusable ear plugs in retail packs, but these are mostly repackaged industrial ear plugs, so why pay the extra when you can choose from the reusable ear plugs used by the pros, and get them for a fraction of the cost?
Reusable ear plugs come in a wide variety of shapes, materials, and designs, so trying a couple of different kinds to find the right ones is usually necessary. To help you with selecting your favorite, we offer trial packs with lots of different ear plugs included. One of these is our Reusable Industrial Ear Plug Trial Pack which has 23 different ear plugs included.
Reusable Ear Plugs for Work
Pros: medium protection from noise, inexpensive industrial versions available, lasts a long time
Cons: harder to have a conversation, finding the right one may take trial and error
High Noise Protection: Foam Ear Plugs
Moving toward blocking even more sound will bring you to the traditional disposable foam ear plug. Despite their low price, foam ear plugs give you the absolute best noise protection available in a passive (non-electronic) ear plug. The trick with foam ear plugs is getting them deeply inserted in the ear. They must be rolled down into a tight cylinder, inserted deeply, and held in place for a few seconds while they expand. You will be amazed at how profound the silence will be with these properly in place. Using them correctly does require a little training, though. Here is a super short tutorial video. It will change the way you look at foam ear plugs. Really.
Aside from being tricky to insert, the biggest downside of foam ear plugs is that they are disposable. That is, they are designed to be used just once and then thrown away. Many of our customers have reported success with using disposable ear plugs a few times before replacing them, so you may be able to get more than the recommended use out of your foam plugs. Just make sure to use common sense to keep your ears healthy and safe: when your current pair becomes stiff or dirty or covered in ear wax, replace them.
As with reusable ear plugs, we have both retail packaged and industrial foam ear plugs available. An Ear Plug Trial Pack is the most inexpensive and convenient way to try many different types of foam ear plugs; I recommend the Try 'Em All Assortment Pack in particular, with 45 different pairs of foam ear plugs to try for yourself. You will almost certainly find some you like for working, as well as some for sleeping, some for mowing the lawn, some for when the in-laws visit...
Disposable Foam Ear Plugs for Work
Pros: best noise blocking, inexpensive industrial versions available, many colors and softnesses/stiffnesses to choose from
Cons: will always have to be removed to have conversations, tricky to insert properly, must be replaced often
Ultimate Noise Protection: Artificial Silence
If none of the above ear plugs solve your noise problem, we offer the ultimate solution for workplace peace and quiet in our Got Ears? Personal Isolation System. This unique system includes a white noise generator and a set of earphones with ear plug style earpieces. First, wear the earpieces to block most of the sound you would hear. Then, to get rid of the rest of the noise that is still bothering you, just turn on the white noise generator. This will mask the remainder of the sound.
White noise sound masking is surprisingly powerful. This is just the fancy name for what happens when you play white noise loud enough to drown out all other sounds. White noise is so featureless and bland, it presents no information for the brain to process. So after a few moments, our minds will tune out the blank white noise completely, taking all the other background sound with it. The result is that you hear nothing.
Be sure to heed the warnings on this one! Being completely isolated from the sounds around you can be dangerous. You can miss phone calls, alerts, alarms, your boss shouting, and the office prankster sneaking up on you. All that said though, if you really need to get rid of all the noise around you, the Personal Isolation System can deliver the artificial silence you need.
Got Ears? Personal Isolation System for Work
Pros: provides artificial silence, ultimate focus with no distractions, the earphones can also be used for music, also helps with tinnitus
Cons: will always have to be removed to have conversations, most expensive solution, extreme noise blocking may be dangerous in the workplace
Until next time, be safe and do the right thing.
Tom Bergman, Vice President
Ear Plug Superstore