Review: Hush smart earplugs put a waterfall in your ear

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Hush earplugs come with a case that can recharge them three times(Credit: Michael Franco/Gizmag)

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Earplugs are nothing new. They're found in the ears of workers on airport tarmacs, kids at concerts and in many a bedroom where one partner uses them to drown out the snoring of the other. But earplugs that use electronics to help drown out the world around are, in fact, a relatively new invention. A new pair of smart earplugs from Hush takes a novel approach to delivering peace through your ears. We recently got to try them out.

Unlike some other advanced earplugs out there like QuietOn which employ active noise cancellation technology, and the ProSounds X-Pro which use valves to block sound, the Hush earplugs fill your ears with soothing sounds. You can choose from a variety of ambient sounds like the woosh of space, the roar of a waterfall, the hum of an airline cabin, or the patter of rain. There's also white, pink and brown noise as well as binaural beats, which consist of tones that are slightly out of phase with each other played to each ear.

All of those options, as well the controls for the earplugs, are activated through an app. By offloading all the functions of the plugs to the app, it allows them to be relatively tiny and use a low amount of energy.

Setting up Hush is pretty straightforward. After downloading the app, you pair the earplugs via Bluetooth. Once paired, you decide which sound you want to send to them. The sounds are actually uploaded to the earplugs rather than being streamed from your phone, which helps the earplugs conserve energy. The app is then used to set the volume and duration of the sound which ranges from 10 minutes to endless. You can also use the app to decide what (if anything) can interrupt the sound to wake you up, such as important phone calls or a morning alarm.

After all the settings are input, you can simply drift off to sleep immersed in whatever soothing track you've chosen.

The earplugs themselves were surprisingly comfortable, although it took a while to get the right tips on them. The set comes with an impressive selection of both memory foam and silicone tips, so there's some trial and error involved in getting them to fit right.

The earplugs also sit flush to the ear so lying down while wearing them is quite comfortable.

When the earplugs aren't in use, they are stored in a convenient case that also acts as the charger. It allows pass-through charging when the case is plugged in, and the case itself also can serve as an external battery pack to charge the earplugs when there's no outlet around. The earplugs play for up to eight hours on a charge depending on how loud you have them. We got about six hours on the loudest setting using the "brown noise" track. The case can recharge the earplugs three times before it needs to juice back up.

As a safety feature, when the earplugs are getting low on juice the sound is dialed down. This means they never completely run out of battery power, so that your morning alarm can still be delivered.

If we were to nitpick, there are three issues we wouldn't mind seeing improved in future versions of Hush.

One is to speed up the time it takes to upload the sounds to the earplugs. It could sometimes take about a minute to get a sound uploaded – which isn't an eternity, but if you want to see how different tracks sound in your ears rather than through your phone's speaker, it can be a time-consuming process. We'd also love it if sounds could be layered as in some other white noise apps. It might be nice, for example, to be able to play the forest sounds with a waterfall in the background. Lastly, a bit more volume would be nice, although maybe the makers kept things capped at a reasonable level so that you don't blast your eardrums all night long with sounds that are too loud in the name of getting peaceful rest.

Retailing for US$150, we also did need to take a moment to consider why someone would want these earbuds that only play a few select sounds versus just using any set of earbuds to listen to soothing sounds through an app like Relax Melodies or White Noise.

After testing, two main benefits emerge. One is that these are wireless, so you can sleep in any position you like without worrying about yanking a cord out of your phone. Second is that they are very comfortable. I slept a full night with them in and was barely aware of their presence. It would be hard to find off-the-shelf earbuds that would provide the same comfort.

All in all these earplugs seem well-made and did indeed deliver a peaceful night's sleep. They're easy to use, comfortable and kind of fun. We also imagine these would be great for flying. You can drown out that screaming baby in the row behind you with some sweet forest noises by using Hush, rather than secretly saying "Hush" and hoping the parents don't know it's you.

Product page: Hush

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