The other day Judie reviewed the VitaSound Personal Audio Enhancer PAE-300. This great little gadget is perfect for the person coping with some degree of hearing loss. Even Judie was surprised by how well it works and the fact that her daughter Sarah, the actual hands-on reviewer, is using it constantly. (Read the review.) It is fantastic that technology can help those with hearing loss. Better still however is taking steps to not have hearing issues in the first place. Sure, as Judie pointed out in the review, some hearing loss is genetic but there is a growing epidemic of young people losing their hearing due to environmental causes. (As in- concerts, loud machinery and listening to music at a volume that slowly damages the mechanics of ones ear.) In this first of two earplug reviews we’ll look at the ETY•Plugs HD. These earplugs have an MSRP of $19.95 and follow the familiar design of Etymotic’s in-ear headphones. Let’s take a look.
Etymotic headphones were among the first quality headphones I tried. The triple flanged inserts sit comfortably in the outer portion of the ear canal. The flanges seal out a good bit of ambient sound and the opening in the center channels the audio into the ear. When I first received my Etymotic headphones this design creeped me out a bit. I really didn’t like putting something with this design into my ear. The more I used the headphones however the more I liked the design. They block out sound without heavy electronics and, when combined with the excellent audio of Etymotic headphones, offer a terrific listening experience. (In fact I’m listening to the Etymotic HF3 earphones I reviewed for a different site years ago and they still sound amazing.)
The ETY•Plugs HD use the same design as Etymotic’s earphones. They have three flanges that seal out sound while a central channel allows sound to make its way into the ear. As the company explains,
ETY•Plugs HD use a tuned resonator and acoustic resistor to replicate the natural response of the ear canal. This unique construction, combined with Etymotic’s proprietary sound path, reduces sound levels evenly across the frequency range without changing the sound quality.
High-definition hearing protection
Comfortable, 3-flange fit designed to seal the ear
Reusable and long lasting
Detachable cord to prevent loss
Available in 2 sizes — standard and large
The benefits of using the ETY•Plugs HD are numerous. They:
Reduce sound levels evenly so that speech and environmental sounds are clear and natural, not muffled as with foam earplugs
Reduces sound approximately 20 dB across the range of hearing
Provides enough sound reduction in most settings to protect hearing, but keeps users aware of their surroundings
Reduces the potential for hearing damage outside of work from loud machinery, vehicles, power tools, sporting events and recreational activities
Provides better hearing in noisy environments because ears don’t overload
Reduces fatigue from long-term exposure to noise
Etymotic is quick to point out that, “a little time may be required to acclimate to these earplugs”. That’s no surprise considering the fact that is true of all Etymotic products. The earplug design is one that will often feel awkward at first. Some people, my wife Elana among them, will never find the design comfortable. For the rest of us however it is just a matter of using the earplugs or headphones for a bit and getting used to the way they feel. Once you become used to the way the earplugs feel however you will find that they are more than comfortable.
As Etymotic explains,
ETY•Plugs HD are the world’s highest definition ready-fit earplugs. They reduce most noise to safe levels while preserving the clarity of speech and environmental sounds. ETY•Plugs HD are configured to replicate the natural response of the ear canal so that when sound enters the earplug, it is reproduced unchanged, exactly the same as the ear would hear it, only quieter.
I find the ETY•Plugs HD to be both comfortable and effective. After the first few minutes wearing them I don’t really notice they are there. At the same time, while they do block a good deal of sound they don’t cut you off entirely from the outside world. I am able to carry on conversations while wearing them and I have no trouble hearing the other person. (I did speak a bit too loudly at first but was back to a normal volume once that was pointed out.) As I am writing this paragraph our in-wall air conditioner is trying to keep the temperature in our kitchen at a decent level. It makes a ton of annoying noise and, within a few minutes, usually gives me a headache. That isn’t the case right now thanks to the ETY•Plugs HDs.
What surprised me was the fact that Elana said she didn’t realize I was wearing earplugs until I pointed them out to her. That’s a good thing since it means you can wear the ETY•Plugs HDs without calling attention to yourself. The earplugs come in a nice, handy carrying case that makes it simple to keep them with you all the time.
It is worth noting that while the ETY•Plugs HD are reusable, they are not intended for extended use. In fact, the company recommends that users consider replacing them every 3-6 months. That may sound like a lot but, then again, $40-$80 a year is a small price to pay for hearing health. That’s why these or the earplugs we will review in part two of this series, come with me wherever I go these days. You can learn more on the product page. Get them for under $10 here through our Amazon Affiliate Store.
What I Like: Small; Comfortable after a brief adjustment period; Block out a good bit of noise and, in the process protect your hearing; Don’t completely isolate you from the outside world; Cut noise but allow you to still carry on conversations
What Needs Improvement: Only recommended for 3-6 months of use before being replaced; Some may find them uncomfortable
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample