Getting a consistent, deep fit with your earplugs is crucial if you want to effectively reduce lower pitched impact sounds such as door slams, stomping noise, etc.
But how do you know you are getting a good, deep seal?
Judging your earplug fit by listening to everyday noises can be deceiving.
Your earplugs might muffle common noises very well, only to disappoint when the neighbor slams their car door.
In a previous post, I described how you can test and optimize your earplugs’ low frequency noise reduction effectiveness using your home audio system.
I highly recommend doing this test at least once because it allows you to assess how much low frequency noise reduction potential your earplugs actually offer.
But I wouldn’t do this daily.
Instead, I often just slam my fridge door when I am unsure about my earplugs’ fit:
To be more precise, I slam my fridge’s freezer door.
Without earplugs I get a nice “bumm.”
In case you are wondering, here is how it sounds (listen with headphones):
If I have put in my earplugs well, the door-slam turns into something meek, perhaps sounding more like “ping.”
If the seal is not deep enough, I get a muffled version of that “bumm.” It can even sound more aggravating.
Having done this test many times, I know right away when the fit isn’t as good as it can be.
Often it is only one of the two earplugs (typically the right one for me) that doesn’t seal well.
I alternately keep my thumb pressed on the left and the right earplug while slamming the door.
If this “pressing” turns the sound into a “ping,” I know exactly which earplug needs reinserting.
Otherwise, I know both earplugs need refitting (or tossing out).
If you live in an apartment and might disturb other people, don’t do this test at night.
Also, while other doors could be an effective gauge as well, I don’t usually slam my car door and neither my entrance door; this would most certainly disturb other people.
In case you are wondering, car doors and other fridges may produce even much lower frequency impact sounds.
However, in my experience, when I get the best fit against the freezer slam, I am also getting the most out of my earplugs against car door slams.
Using the “fridge-door slam” to quickly compare the effectiveness of different earplugs
Using pink noise as a fitting noise while putting in your earplugs can help to find sound leaks and adjusting the fit.
However, it is difficult to compare the effectiveness of various earplugs against lower frequency impact and steady-state noise just by listening to pink noise or sounds in your environment.
Which one will reduce car-door slams, truck noise, stomping, generator noise, etc. best?
I have found the fridge-door-slam to be a fast first-line earplug screening tool for this purpose.
Once you have done this test with a couple of different earplugs, you’ll instinctively know which plugs are more promising against both lower frequency impact and steady-state noise.
(I will then often do a more in-depth test of the short listed candidates.)
But note, because fridge door slams are of a fairly low frequency (see below), their impact sounds are not ideal for comparing the mid and high frequency noise reduction effectiveness of earplugs.
For mid-and-higher-frequency sounds, listening to a TV, coffee shop noise, or pink noise are much better suited.
This test is subjective and not meant as a tool to assess the effectiveness of earplugs as a hearing protector!
I am sharing this to help you make a quick prediction whether you have got your earplugs fit right for optimal annoyance reduction and improve the fit when necessary.
It also allows you to quickly screen different earplugs: You may find that with some, you can never get the fit right while with others it’s a breeze.
Frequency spectrum fridge door slams
My fridge is a standard-size fridge with separate cooler and freezer compartments.
The freezer door’s slamming sounds peak at around 100 Hz.
Use headphones to listen:
That freezer door is what I mostly use.
Typically, I already know that my earplugs reduce even much lower frequencies well, provided I get a deep enough seal. I am mainly testing whether the seal is good.
At times, I may want to compare earplugs against lower pitched sounds.
I that case, I use the larger cooler door. That door’s slamming sounds peak at a much lower 47 Hz.
Use headphones to listen:
But I rarely do this for fit testing my earplugs For that purpose, I have found the freezer door slam to work well.
For optimizing my earplugs’ fit against lower frequency impact and steady-state noise, as well as screening new earplugs for their potential to reduce such noise, I have found slamming fridge doors to be a fast and effective tool.
Chances are you too have a larger fridge at home: Great, you don’t have to set up anything to perform this test.
Just be considerate and, in particular, if you live in an apartment, don’t do this when your neighbors are asleep or taking a nap.
For a more in-depth test, data, and decibels, read How to Make Your Earplugs Block More Low Frequency Noise.
If you are unsure how to insert your earplugs, check How to Put in Foam Earplugs.