Vibes High-Fidelity Ear Plugs, $23.99

On a recent episode of Shark Tank, Jackson Mann asked for funding for the high-fidelity ear plugs, Vibes.  Hearing loss can happen due to overexposure of loud sounds over an extended period of time.  Hearing protection  is important when mowing the grass, going to a car race, or standing at your favorite concert.  Typical hearing plugs will dampen the sound waves hitting your ear drum.  Vibes claims that their High Fidelity Ear Plugs are made for the concert goer.  Ear Plugs that will allow you to safely stay for the concert but protect your hearing from unsafe levels of sound.    Vibes retails for $23.99 and you will receive 3 interchangeable ear buds in “small, medium, and large” sizes to improve fitting and a hard plastic case to carry them in.  Vibes has also partnered with Hear the World Foundation where each purchase of vibes helps fund projects to provide hearing aides, funding, and education to those in need around the world. 

 

The way we hear is based on two factors, decibels (loudness) and frequency (pitch).  An object produces a sound and generates a soundwave.  The sound wave travels through the air, into our ear, and vibrates our ear drum.  The ear drum vibration sets in motion a series of events that activates tiny hairs in the cochlea which sends a signal to the brain allowing us to hear.  Prolonged exposure to certain frequencies at high decibel level can cause damage to those tiny hairs.  Once the hairs in the cochlea are damaged, hearing can be permanently damaged.  Men, lawn mowers, dog barks, and vowels are considered low frequency sounds while women, birds, and consonant sounds are the high frequency (higher pitch) sounds.  Normal conversation happens in the 20 to 50 decibel (loudness) range while lawn mowers, motorcycles, and concerts are in the 80 to 110 decibel levels. 

 

For this review, I traveled to Columbus, OH to work with audiologist Spenser Miller, AuD.  Under the direction of Dr. Miller, the Vibes were tested using Real Ear Attenuation at Threshold and Field Microphone in Real Ear.   Vibes claims that they can reduce decibel levels by an average of 22 dB across all frequencies (125, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, and 8000) while maintaining the clarity required to enjoy music comfortably. 

 

Green - No Plug; Purple - Foam Plug; Blue - Vibes

Green - No Plug; Purple - Foam Plug; Blue - Vibes

Our first test was using a machine called the Verifit which performs the Field Microphone in Real Ear test.  For this test, a small microphone is place inside of the ear canal measuring decibels played in the ear while a speaker about 2 to 3 feet away plays a pre-recorded phonetically varied sentence.  We compared no ear plugs, to foam ear plugs, and the vibes in two different participants. 

 

Green - No Plug; Purple - Foam Plug; Blue - Vibes

Green - No Plug; Purple - Foam Plug; Blue - Vibes

For both participants, the foam ear plugs lowered the hearing threshold greater than Vibes did in frequencies less than 4000.  At 250 hertz vibes performed similar to having no ear plugs while the foam plugs had a 10 decibel decrease.  Once we crossed the 1000 hertz mark, Vibes began to decrease threshold by 10 and 20 decibels. 

 

During the next test, the Real Attenuation at Threshold test was performed comparing Vibes to unprotected hearing. 

Blue - Typical Hearing; Red - with Vibes

Blue - Typical Hearing; Red - with Vibes

At 250 and 500 hertz, there was no difference between the Vibes and unprotected hearing.  At 1000, 2000, and 8000 hertz, the difference was 10 decibels.  The Vibes was a 20 decibel difference at 2000 hertz and 15 decibel difference at 2500 and 4000 hertz.  This averaged to be about 11.4 decibel difference across all frequencies. 

 

Subjectively, the difference between foam ear plugs and Vibes is night and day.  Foam ear plugs are stuffy and makes things your feel like you are hearing everything from the bottom of a pool.  The Vibes sound like someone has turned the volume down on the world around you while maintaining sound quality.  The foam ear plugs makes it difficult to enjoy conversations or music while the Vibes transfer the sound in the air to your ear drum at a lower level. 

 

Positives:

Easy to clean

3 sizes to find a perfect fit

Carrying case for protection

Reusable

Low visibility due to being made of clear plastic

 

Negatives:

Mixed Results during testing

Price, great for an investment but not appropriate for the one time use crowd

 

We sent out results to the company, Vibes, about our results.  They had the following response "We tested our earplugs at both Orfield Laboratories, and the University of Minnesota Audiology Department.   Orfield Laboratories provided a reverberation (or anechoic) testing chamber, Head and Torso Simulator (HATS) and other required instrumentation and technician to test the sound level reduction provided by various hearing protection devices fitted in the HATS' ear simulator.  Data was provided in the form a spreadsheet with reduction at each standard 1/3 frequency for each device.  These test results were completely thrown out, as fit is incredibly important, and any possible leakage or improper fit can lead to drastically different results. We found in this non-human testing option, results were flawed due to leakage and improper fit. "  Further information can be found here on their testing.  

During testing, Dr. Miller and I noticed that improper fit could adversely affect the ability of the plugs.  

 

 

 

Overall, the Vibes are solid product and are worth the 4.5/5 it earned.  Our thanks at Speech Science to Dr. Spenser Miller, AuD, for helping with the testing of this product. 

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