Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ear plugs, a modern solution

I just started watching a movie with begins with a man who suffers from insomnia, migranes, and very noisy neighbors. This is such a big problem for him that he's fantasising about murdering his neighbors.

There is also an "Ultra" version, I 
don't know how big the difference is.
This is a common problem, and it's clear that many people are not aware that a large part of the problem can be alleviated with a simple solution: modern, comfortable, effective earplugs.

Until a few years ago when a keen reader of this blog made me aware of it (thanks RCmedia), I only knew the traditional earplugs, you may know them: cylindrical, yellow, pretty hard, and not comfortable at all. But the modern ones are a quantum leap better, particularly in comfort.

Currently I use Mack's, but I'll bet there are many good ones.

They are handy in many situations. I'm lucky to live in a rather quiet neighborhood, but there's still the occasional loud party or such. If it's so hot I need to have the air conditioning on. If I've been working late, and need to sleep while the world is awake. And whatnot.
I can still hear my phone on my bedstand, if somebody knocks on my door or if the doorbell rings, but most of the rest of it, they take care of. For many people, they can help if the spouse is a snorer.

Come to think of it, it can be helpful too in the workplace, if it's a very noisy workplace. Or even an office landscape, if the general bustle distracts you from doing any delicate work. Or maybe for a home-worker, to keep distractions at arm's length while you cyber-commute from the corner of the closet.

13 comments:

Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

Good ear plugs. They compress nicely, and stay compressed long enough to fit them to your ear. The "ultra" are 32 db noise reduction versus 29 db for the standard.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Thanks. I don't have any practical experience with decibels, but I know the scale is logarithmic, so I'd guess that 3db can be quite significant?

Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

All I know is that a higher number is better. 8-)

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Heck, I could'a figured *that* out! :-)

Ken said...

3 dB difference is not going to make much difference. 29dB down is a lot, and should quiten things down a lot. See wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sound_pressure_level#Sound_pressure_level

CalgaryMark said...

Earplugs are good for trying to sleep on a plane or similar situation. But if you want to drive away distraction, I would expect a good pair of noise-rejecting headphones like pilots use would be good alternative - listen to what you want and reject the distractions from the street etc. The price range is phenomenal - a good pair of David Clarks (for pilots, probably with a microphone) can run $1000 but cheap ones from Best Buy can be as little as $50. And about as effective as you would expect . . .

CalgaryMark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly Trimble said...

Actually, the deci-bel measure is a logarithmic measure based on powers of ten with one 'bel' being the supposed faintest sound perceptible by humans and denoted as zero decibels (and thus zero decibels does not mean totally quiet and no sound). Ten decibels is ten times the faintest discernable sound, twenty decibels is 100 times, sixty is a million times, ninety is a billion times, etc.

It is sort of like dynamic range with perception of light being measured in stops, a logarithmic measure based on powers of two, instead of contrast ratios, which is a linear measure, with a 12 stop dynamic range of a high end digital camera or black and white film representing a 2^12th or 4,096 magnitude or contrast ratio, and humans able to percieve a contrast ratio of 100,000 to 1, or about 16.6 stops, and with a high noon optimum daylight scene having a contrast ratio of over a million to one or almost 20 stops.

Sound is the same with sound pressure and energy having a range in nature of about 10 to the 15th power, humans able to perceive around 10 to the 12th power with damage to hearing, and being uncomfortable with 10 to the 8th or 9th, or 80 or 90 db.

A 3 db difference in sound would be a difference of 10 raised to the 0.3th power or about double, or going down, about half the sound energy, and thus very perceptible.

Kelly Trimble said...

My bad-correction, a friend just told me the variation in sound pressure in nature (in air) is more like 10 to the 19th or 20th and not 15th.

Also, ANR headsets are better than the crappy old David Clarks that the military uses. However, noise canceling headsets cancel only steady frequency sounds, like an airplane engine, and oddly, a jackhammer doesn't qualify. Neither does the wind noise in an airplane, which is a white noise. And they cancel the noise only at the headset or comming in the ear canal as variations in air pressure. In flight training you are taught that noise canceling headsets do not cancel the noise induced into the liquid media of your body and transmitted to other components of the ear besides those exposed to air. Noise canceling headsets are used to facilitate communication so you don't have to turn the volume up on the radio and yell into the mic. If you wear noise canceling headsets, or even ear plugs, it may help prevent damage to hearing, but your body and mind will still be subjected to the sound energy, even though you can't hear it, and prolonged exposure will lead, over a period of hours, to nearly the same level of fatigue and spatial disorientation. They tell us that on extremely long trips in a noisy airplane, it is best and safest to wear multiple layers of heavy fabric for clothes and to cover your scalp, cheeks, and as much of your neck as possible with leather or styrofoam, such as in a helmet. That is why bomber crews and fighter pilots dress the way they do. After flying from Whiteman AFB around the world to drop bombs in Afganistan and back for twenty hours, without sound atenuation to the body and skull, the crews would be so disoriented from noise that they probably couldn't stand up or land the airplane.

Thus the earplugs won't help with the fatigue associated with intermediate term exposure to sound, particularly low frequency sounds, but it will prevent the pain associated with high frequency sound and help in communication and task concentration. I know this sounds crazy, and somebody, maybe Eolake, will probably post that I am completely full of shit, but they tell us in flight training that if the neighbor throws a loud party, the ear plugs will help you get to sleep, but you will have a better sleep if you are under a couple of heavy quilts to attenuate the sound to your whole body.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

I couldn't use headphones when trying to sleep, since for some reason I only sleep on my side.

Bronislaus Janulis / Framewright said...

Kelly,

Thanks for the input. I use earplugs, (Macks Shooters Ear Plugs, 32 db) mainly for woodworking machinery, where the sound is intermittent. Headphones make my head ache. I do notice the difference between the 32 vs 29.

Freeman Dundas said...

What movie was that? I think I could relate to the character, though I’m certainly not a psycho. There are just people who can’t stand noise. I’m one of them. Loud and annoying noise such as what you mentioned doesn’t only steal my focus, but also triggers a foul mood. And that’s why I'm thankful for earplugs; I can always block out such annoying noise and concentrate on what I’m doing. Freeman @ EarPeace.com

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

It was God Bless America, stars Joel Murray and Tara Lynne Barr.
Not a bad movie, though not a destined classic.