A few readers have contacted me because they were being kept awake by chirping and trilling crickets, so I have decided to look more closely into blocking out the night time songs of common crickets.
I thoroughly enjoyed conducting the experiments described below. This is intended to be both a problem solving article for you as well as a journal post for me.
I hope you benefit from reading this post.
Most crickets chirp in the range from 2 to 8 kHz, i.e. they produce high-mid to high-frequency noise.
The highest reported sound level is at around 100 decibels at close range (50 cm, 1.6 ft.). But it is highly unlikely that you can get that close, and you will have your windows shut, so you’ll experience a much lower sound level.
(The insect with the loudest call song is a type of cicada, with a mean sound level of 106.7 dB at 50 cm, 1.6 ft.)
The peak frequency of each particular species lies in a very narrow range, and this is where it is the loudest by far. There are additional higher frequency components (harmonics) but those are much less intense and generally not contributing much to the disturbance.
Here are three different cricket species, in order from lower to higher frequency. Set your volume to around 50% and take a listen:
In my experiments, the best ways to block out cricket sounds were the following:
- Passive noise isolation by closing the window and additionally using foam earplugs.
- Playing a customized white noise (= a masking sound) that emphasizes the narrow peak frequency range in which a cricket’s song lies using sleep earbuds, a Bluetooth speaker, or headphones. (see below for how you can easily create such a masking sound.)
- For very loud crickets, a combination of passive noise isolation and noise masking worked best.
Provided the cricket sounds in your bedroom are not too loud, playing your customized masking sound using a small Bluetooth speaker can work well.
If the crickets are loud, earbuds (easier for side sleepers) and headphones work better than the Bluetooth speaker. Alternatively, you could also put in your earplugs and play the speaker loud, if you are not disturbing your partner.
Active (electronic) noise cancellation does not help in the cricket noise range from 2 to 8 kHz.
However, the best active noise cancelling headphones are optimized to also isolate very well via their ear cups, so they do substantially reduce cricket noise. It just doesn’t matter whether your turn them on or not, i.e., they function like light earmuffs.
What doesn’t work well against crickets are pink noise, brown noise, and most fans.
Also, many (not all) white noise machines roll off the higher frequencies to make their white noises sound more pleasant. Unfortunately, this roll-off is not what you want against a high-pitched cricket that chirps at 8 kHz.
Finally, a sound-proof window with a high STC-rating blocks a lot more cricket noise than a standard single-pane window.
For more on all this read on.
Passive noise isolation of cricket sounds by windows and earplugs
In this article, we are looking at three different types of cricket, a tree cricket (2.9 kHz), a field cricket (4.8 kHz), and a ground cricket (8.2 kHz) to cover pretty much the complete frequency range.
You have heard them in the overview; here are all three again, in order from lower to higher frequency. Set your volume to around 50% and take a listen:
Cricket noise reduction by your window
Your first line of defense is going to be your bedroom window, so I recommend closing it.
I measured the noise reduction provided by one of my single-pane (sliding) laminated windows at the peak frequencies of three different cricket types:
So even a single-pane window can attenuate cricket sounds by 30 decibels and more.
With a sound-proof, multi-pane window you can substantially improve on that noise reduction.
For example, the STC-46 window reported on in the study by the Partnership for AiR Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction (see heading STC and OITC results, Figure 0.2) offered a sound transmission loss in excess of 50 dB at the frequencies 3.15 and 4 kHz (1/3rd octave bands).
To determine the sound transmission class (STC) for windows, walls, etc., unfortunately only frequency bands up to 4 kHz are used.
However, for a decent sound-proof window, I would expect an even higher transmission loss at 8 kHz than at 4 kHz (e.g., >50 decibels for the STC-46 window mentioned above).
So better windows are an option, albeit an expensive one.
If you want to get other windows, let the supplier elaborate specifically on their proposed window’s performance at higher frequencies (i.e., 2 to 8 kHz).
If the crickets are very close though, even with a window with a high STC rating, you might still have to play a masking sound or wear earplugs to completely block cricket noise.
Cricket noise reduction by earplugs
I tried earplugs, earbuds, and headphones against the three cricket species, and all three tools were quite effective.
Let’s look at foam earplugs (Moldex Pura-Fit) first:
Wearing NRR-33 foam earplugs (Moldex Pura-Fit), I couldn’t hear the snowy tree cricket (2.9 kHz) unless its sound level (in my bedroom) exceeded 40 decibels.
For the higher-pitched two cricket types (4.8 and 8.2 kHz) my hearing threshold was even 50 decibels.
And note, that is 40 to 50 dB in addition to the help the window provided!
Take a look at the last column in the following table. It shows my hearing threshold when combining the noise reduction of my single-pane window and the earplugs. A very effective combination indeed!
So with NRR-33 foam earplugs and a closed window, if the cricket is somewhere out in your yard and not too close to the window, chances are you can completely block its noise.
Foam earplugs plus closing my window is what I would try first for sleeping amidst cricket songs.
For alternatives and more sizes check the post The 6 Best Earplugs for Sleeping.
If you have a very small ear canal, read my comparative earplug review for smaller ears.
What can you do if the earplugs alone aren’t enough?
If the cricket is very close to your window or it is a low-pitched cricket (at around 3 kHz) you might still hear it.
Lower-pitched crickets (even when they are not objectively louder) can be more difficult to block because our hearing is a lot more sensitive at 3 kHz than at 4 to 8 kHz and the window’s performance at that frequency is typically somewhat lower.
In that case, you would need to add the masking sound described below and play it relatively loud via a speaker in your room or not so loud through earbuds/headphones (see below for more info).
Note: while you are wearing earplugs, a masking sound played via a speaker will likely not appear loud to you, but it might disturb a partner/roommate who doesn’t wear earplugs. If this is not a concern, adding a speaker is a good option.
How well do sleep earbuds reduce cricket noise?
I tried one of my favorite budget sleep earbuds, the AGPTEK, again against all three crickets.
With well-sealing ear-tips, they substantially reduced cricket noise, even when I didn’t play any sound. Note though that these aren’t foam earplugs, so you will have to play a masking sound to get rid of louder crickets.
(Depending on the cricket type, the noise reduction was between 15 and 20 dB less than that of my foam earplugs.)
But when adding a masking sound, I was able to drown out louder crickets as well.
I was able to mask crickets that had a sound level of 50 to 55 dB in my bedroom before the masking sound volume became unacceptable to me. Again, this is in addition to the 30 to 40 dB noise reduction provided by my window.
In general, the higher the cricket song frequency, the easier it was to mask it.
Note: By further increasing the volume of these earbuds, I would be able to drown out even crickets that are chirping at 100 dB right outside my window, but then the masking sound would be too loud for comfort.
The crux with these (and other) earbuds is to get a good seal with one of the provided ear tips (three sizes), otherwise they block very little noise. You need that good seal/isolation to keep the masking noise volume at an acceptable level.
How do you know you are getting a good seal and what to do if not?
With the provided silicone ear tips, I test the seal by inserting the earbuds and repeatedly saying “boom, beat.”
I know I have a good seal when my own voice starts to sound boomy (occlusion effect). As long as my voice hasn’t changed much, the seal is insufficient.
If you can’t get a good seal, consider using third-party tips such as Comply foam (see AGPTEK post below) with these earbuds. In my test, these earbuds performed significantly better with Comply foam than with the stock ear tips.
Given their low price, I recommend trying these inexpensive earphones even if you have to buy additional ear tips.
For more information and tips for better isolation, read my AGPTEK Sleep Earbuds Test and Review.
How about using true wireless earbuds?
If you already have true wireless earbuds that you can/want to sleep with, by all means try these first with the cricket masking sounds below before buying anything.
I have several true wireless models which I like.
However, I find it challenging to find a pair that has a long battery life (>8 hours), performs well against higher mid and high-frequency noise, and is suitable for side sleeping.
Moreover, the charging case limits what kind of ear tips you can use with true wireless models: you have fewer options if the stock ear tips don’t seal your ear well. And, they shouldn’t cost a fortune.
I will update this post when I have a recommendation for true wireless earbuds against crickets.
How well do over-ear headphones reduce cricket noise?
Over-ear headphones are a challenge if you want to sleep on your side (so personally, I would try earplugs, earbuds, or a Bluetooth speaker first).
They are, however, an effective option if you can sleep on your back.
Moreover, some people can’t tolerate anything in their ears, which leaves only over-ear headphones or an external speaker to play a masking sound.
I tested two different over-ear headphones:
- Sony MDR-7506, chosen because they offer average passive noise isolation
- Sony WH-1000XM4, which offer very good passive noise isolation
Playing a masking sound at medium volume, both headphones were effective at rendering the sounds of the higher-pitched crickets (4.8 and 8.2 kHz) unnoticeable.
Against the lower-pitched tree cricket (2.9), the better-isolating WH-1000XM4 performed substantially better: they allow you to mask lower-pitched crickets (2 to 3 kHz) at a significantly lower volume than the MDR-7506.
The biggest challenge was to mask lower-pitched crickets, but if their songs are not too loud, average over-ear headphones should do.
The electronic (active) noise cancellation of the Sony WH-1000XM4 doesn’t offer any benefit in the cricket range from 2 to 8 kHz.
It is the very good passive noise isolation of their ear cups that enables them to perform so well against crickets.
Unfortunately, you would be paying a large premium for electronics you don’t need against crickets.
My recommendation is that if you want to use over-ear headphones for masking cricket noise, try the ones you already have.
What budget headphones should you get if you don’t have any?
Because in addition to isolation >8-hour wearing comfort is paramount for sleeping, for a budget option, I would go to a local store where you can try different headphones.
While trying different phones, ask yourself, “do they muffle the higher-pitches sounds around me and could I sleep with them?”
What if you want all the comfort you can get?
If you can get them for a good price, a second-hand/refurbished pair of Bose QC35 II come to mind. I find them very comfortable (perhaps the most comfortable of them all) and they isolate almost as well as the WH-1000XM4 mentioned earlier.
For my noise reduction test and chart of these two premium headphones, see the post Active Noise Cancelling vs Noise Isolating Headphones
There are definitely cheaper headphones out there that isolate as well in the cricket frequency range as these premium Bose and Sony options (e.g., see the very decent Alesis in the post linked to above), but I am still on the lookout for budget high noise isolation headphones that also offer a comparable long-time wearing comfort.
In the meantime, I can’t help recommending these expensive headphones for their wearing comfort.
Are industrial noise reduction earmuffs an option?
Even most medium noise reduction earmuffs (e.g., noise reduction rating of 24) will reduce lower-pitched cricket sounds better than standard over-ear headphones, including the expensive options mentioned above.
Against higher-pitched crickets (>4.5 kHz), the muffs’ performance is very good as well, but here normal headphones stand more of a chance.
Some earmuff headphones, such as the Worktunes Connect (review), even feature a built-in speaker and Bluetooth, so you could play a masking sound. And I do know people who sleep with their Worktunes.
So yes, earmuffs can very effectively subdue cricket sounds.
The downside of ear defenders (even for back sleepers) is that by design they use a much higher headband force than standard headphones to provide their secure fit.
You would have to try if this is comfortable enough for you for sleeping.
I like earmuffs during the day, but I’d much rather use low-pressure headphones for sleeping if at all possible.
But in terms of price and noise reduction performance against cricket noise, even lighter earmuffs are solid.
Creating a customized masking sound against crickets to play via your headphones or Bluetooth speaker
The good news is that for masking higher frequency sounds, you don’t need a large speaker (unlike when masking bass noise). If you have any size of Bluetooth speaker that goes loud, chances are it produces a good amount of sound energy in the range from 2 to 8 kHz.
Earbuds and closed-back headphones are more effective because they additionally provide passive noise isolation, allowing you to play your masking sound at a lower volume.
On the flip-side, by using a speaker, you don’t have to wear anything in or around your ears.
Note: In my experiments, I used the compact DOSS Soundbox as a speaker, which I have had for a while. One big advantage of that Bluetooh speaker is that it has a Micro-SD card slot, so you could even store sounds or music directly on a memory card.
Most important when creating an effective masking sound is that you emphasize the frequencies in which your crickets chirp or trill.
Popular masking sounds such as pink noise and brown noise do not work well against cricket noise because their sound intensity decreases with increasing frequency. This makes them pleasant to the ear but not good against crickets. You may be playing such a sound very loud, but it gets too loud in the lower frequencies well before you get enough intensity in the cricket frequencies.
Against the tested cricket noises, I created two different sounds (can be heard below):
- One masking sound that works against the crickets at 2.9 and 4.8 kHz, i.e., higher-mid and lower-high frequency chirps. This masking sound carries less “hiss,” and in my opinion it is more pleasing to the ear.
- A second masking sound to be deployed if you have high frequency chirps (e.g., 8.2 kHz) in your cricket concerto. This sound can also work against the lower-pitched crickets but I find it less pleasant.
Here is the lower-pitched masking sound fading in and out to mask the lower-pitched crickets (2.9 kHz and 4.8 kHz). You’ll hear both crickets and then the masking sound volume increases until the crickets disappear:
And here is the higher-pitched masking sound that becomes necessary if you also have crickets that chirp at around 8 kHz:
Note: I created these sounds from scratch to understand what works best, but there is no need for you to do that thanks to the adaptable myNoise website and app. Read on for more.
How can you create such cricket masking sounds?
I recommend you use the myNoise sound generator White Noise & Co webpage or the myNoise app (iPhone, iPad or Android).
The app and website both feature an equalizer allowing you to customize your masking sound.
Let’s take a look at this sound generator’s equalizer:
By default, the generator plays pink noise.
I have added the frequency bands to the EQ and highlighted the 2, 4, and 8 kHz bands critical to masking cricket noise.
All other bands don’t help much when it comes to masking crickets. Use them to make the sound more pleasing to your ear.
So here is my preference if you have higher-pitched crickets or both lower- and higher-pitched crickets:
And here is my preference if only lower-pitched crickets are present.
If you like the previous EQ-settings, they too should work against the lower-pitched (2.9 and 4.8 kHz) crickets.
To me, however, that setting is a bit “too hissy,” so I aimed to create a more pleasing sound.
How do you know whether you only have lower-pitched crickets?
First try the higher-frequency EQ-setting and adjust the volume so that the masking sound makes your cricket noises disappear.
Then, to get to the lower-pitched EQ setting shown below, just return the 8 kHz slider to its default position. If that still works, then you have no higher-pitched crickets (or you can’t hear them).
On the website, you can save your settings in a URL for each sounds by clicking “Save in URL.”
I recommend you save the URLs for both EQ settings, so that you can alternate between the two:
In the app, you can save your preset by tapping on the menu bars in the lower left corner and giving your preset a name:
Do consumer white noise machines or fans mask cricket sounds?
Whether a white noise machine or fan can mask cricket noise depends on the frequency spectrum of the masking sounds (white noises) it offers.
If it features pure white noise that extends to at least 8 kHz (no early roll-off) or other settings that emphasize the higher-frequencies you have a chance.
Let’s take a look at two very popular white noise machines.
Lectrofan Classic against crickets
I tried the Letrofan Classic, one of my favorite white noise machines. Its white noises 9 and 10 do a very decent job at drowning out both lower-and-and-higher pitched cricket sounds.
In the following sound sample all three crickets (2.9, 4.8, and 8.2 kHz) can be heard. I then turn on the Lectrofan and go through its higher-pitched white noises starting from white noise #6:
White noises #9 and #10 work best.
Note though that because these sounds aren’t as optimized for only crickets (i.e., they are meant to also help again mid-frequency noises) you will have to play them louder than the customized sounds you heard previously.
Marpac/Yogasleep Dohm against crickets
The pleasant sounding Marpac/Yogasleep Dohm with its real built-in fan doesn’t stand a chance.
Its masking sound doesn’t get close to the cricket frequencies. Moreover, even if it did, it would often be too quiet.
Here are our three crickets again. After a few seconds, I turn on the Yogsleep Dohm (at high speed). This is the loudest it gets:
Now, this is not to knock this sound machine. I like its sound a lot. It is, however, not suitable for masking higher-frequency sounds.
1. Tony Robillard et al., “Mechanisms of High-Frequency Song Generation in Brachypterous Crickets and the Role of Ghost Frequencies,” Journal of Experimental Biology 216, no. 11 (June 1, 2013): 2001–11, https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.083964.
2. John M. Petti, “Chapter 24: Loudest | The University of Florida Book of Insect Records | Department of Entomology & Nematology | UF/IFAS,” April 15, 1997, https://entnemdept.ufl.edu/walker/ufbir/chapters/chapter_24.shtml.
The cricket sounds 3 to 5 were used in this article and tested against masking sounds (own creations) and white noise machines:
3. Snowy Tree Cricket: calling song, male from Limestone Co., Texas; 24.8°C” (tree cricket, 2.9 kHz) by SINA is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
5. “Southern Ground Cricket: calling song; male from Lake Co., Tenn.; 24.8°C” (ground cricket, 8.2 kHz) by SINA is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
6. Daniel H. Robinson, Robert J. Bernhard, and Luc G. Mongeau, “Passive Sound Insulation: PARTNER Project 1.5 – Ascent,” January 2008, https://ascent.aero/partner-1/.