I started writing this review 30,000ft in the air on board a commercial airline heading to Nuremberg for the weekend. A perfect opportunity to try out the range of hearing protection offered by Flare Audio.
I came across Flare Audio on a sponsored Facebook article and was captured by their stylish design. This curiosity led me to email them directly to request a sample of their products to review. The director of the company contacted me directly (a nice touch) and within a day or two I had received three different products to try out: The Isolate Aluminium ear plugs, the Isolate Mini ear plugs and the Isolate Snoozers.
Isolate Aluminuim Ear plugs
The packaging is slick and contains several packets of different sized foam tips as well as the aluminium component of the ear plug. The tips are made of a special memory foam which mould to the shape of your ear. They are reusable and can be wiped clean with a cloth.
Like a stereotypical male I dived right in rather than carefully reading the instructions. How complicated can ear plugs be?! I stuck some medium foam plugs on the end of the metal capsules. I rolled the foam in my fingers and confidently shoved them in my ears.
Immediately I could tell they were effective but they were very uncomfortable and so I referred back to the instructions which clearly states that you should start with a small and work your way up if the appropriate seal is not obtained. I removed the Isolate Aluminium Ear plugs and put on the small domes. The right one felt more comfortable, but I still felt a bit of a niggle in the left. I was a little disappointed at this stage as I had followed the instructions to the T. However, I thought I’d better try the mini versions just to make sure my ears weren’t too small for the standard size.
Isolate Mini Aluminium Ear plugs
I put the small foam domes on the Isolate Mini ear plugs and wow, what a difference. I was able to wear them for the full duration of the flight with no discomfort at all. The next day I also went on to do some shooting at a local range for an hour or so and once again no soreness and they were able to suppress the noise of the rifle to a comfortable, safe level.
The Isolate Aluminium Ear plugs in both standard and mini formats have a Single Number Rating of 35dB. This is about average for a foam ear plug but some can go up to 39dB.
On the surface 4dB might not seem that different. However, when we are talking about high intensity sounds it makes a huge difference.
Sound is energy and for every 3dB increase in noise there is double the amount of energy. The noise at work regulations state that we can be exposed to noise at 85dB for 8 hours before we are at risk of harm. If we increase this to 88dB it would only be 4 hours, 91dB 2 hours and so on.
Let’s say we are in a nightclub and the noise level is 120dB; without earplugs we have less than a minute before we are exceeding our daily noise exposure limit and are at risk of hearing damage. If we put in the Isolate Aluminium ear plugs we can stay in the club for 8 hours. This is an impressive figure but with the top performing foam plugs, such as 3M E-A-Rsoft FX ear plugs it brings you down in to a safe listening level and so there is no time limit.
The Isolate Aluminium Ear Plugs are not exactly cheap in comparison to their counter parts. You can buy 200 pairs of foam ear plugs for the price of one pair of the Isolate Aluminium Ear plugs. So what would I buy? I would still buy the Isolate Aluminium Mini Ear plugs. Why? Because I would feel more confident wearing these at concerts and clubs. This means I’m more likely to wear them and protect my hearing. So yes, although other plugs may be cheaper and perform slightly better, these for me are the winner because I can admit that I am a little vain and want to look and feel my best when enjoying live music and socialising with friends.
I can’t really write too much about the snoozers. I attempted to fall asleep with them in but I found them far too uncomfortable even with the smallest domes. I felt like I couldn’t quite get them deep enough. The metal was digging in my ears when I laid on my side and after 5 minutes they became too much of an irritant. These for me were no good but this reinforces that I may have particularly small ear canals (Either that or their sizing is way out. Comment below with your experiences).
By focusing on style, I think Flare Audio have tackled an important element of hearing protection that is not often thought about. They do not block out noise as well as some of the high performing ear plugs on the market, but I suspect they are more likely to be worn by a young adult in a situation where they need it most. This is of course infinitely better than wearing no ear protection at all. In my opinion, products like Isolate will help the British Tinnitus Association with their #plugem campaign go further and should have a heavy presence at gigs, festivals and concerts. I for one have been converted and will be carrying these with me in future to gigs and live music events.