Invented in Germany in 1907, Ohropax Classic wax are one of the first modern earplugs. They are made of a mix of cotton, Vaseline, and paraffin wax.
Not surprisingly, these wax earplugs are a bit sticky, stickier, in fact, than pure wax and silicone putty earplugs.
I have found this stickiness to be an advantage:
Ohropax stay better in place when you move and provide a more consistent seal than other wax earplugs I have tried.
Some people rave about their excellent noise reduction while others state that they don’t do nearly enough.
Personally, I have found them to be quite effective, even at lower frequencies.
In this post, I am reporting on my own noise reduction tests and offer some tips on how to make them work better.
Ohropax wax are on-ear earplugs: you are not supposed to insert them in the ear. Instead, you remove the cotton wrapping, roll them into a ball, and then flatten this ball over your ear canal entrance.
They are a good, comfortable option if you don’t want something in your ears or want to give them a break from in-ear plugs.
Foam ear plugs can be more effective, but need to be well inserted into the ear for optimal performance.
Ohropax Classic wax earplugs have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 23.
Here is the noise attenuation data (ANSI S3. 19-1974). It shows the average noise reduction for 10 subjects in a lab by frequency band. The plugs are fitted by an expert.
|Ohropax Classic, |
|125 Hz||250 Hz||500 Hz||1000 Hz||2000 Hz||3150 Hz||4000 Hz||6300 Hz||8000 Hz|
|Mean Attenuation (dB)||25.7||25.0||26.9||30.2||35.8||38.4||39.4||39.5||38.1|
|Standard Deviation (dB)||4.7||4.3||3.1||3.2||4.8||4.1||4.5||4.4||4.8
For everyday noise reduction, I wanted to know whether I am getting close to these averages.
And I wanted to investigate further (and quantify) how well these wax earplugs work against low frequency noise <125 Hz.
These lower frequencies are important for blocking large vehicle noise, bass noise, footfalls, and humming noises.
- In the U.S, attenuation for hearing protectors is usually published down to the 125 Hz octave band.
- However, for everyday noise and annoyance reduction (the focus of this post), we are often dealing with frequencies lower than that.
So I ran a one-subject test (using my own ears), starting from 40 Hz. Here are the results:
What do these results mean
On average, I got about 23 decibels noise reduction for bass noise (40-125 Hz), which is surprisingly good.
With good foam earplugs (e.g., Flents Quiet Please) I achieve 10 dB more in this range, so no, Ohropax wax don’t outperform foam for me. For maximum performance you need something deeper in the ear.
For comparison, I also tested the low frequency noise reduction of a pair of lighter earmuffs, the NRR-25 3M Peltor Optime 98.
With those, I got less than 10 decibels on average from 40 to 125 Hz; Ohropax did a lot better against bass noise.
So, 23 dB is a good amount of reduction, in particular when considering that Ohropax wax don’t have to go deep into the ear.
Note: Our hearing is less sensitive for low frequency than mid-and-high frequency noise, so 20 decibels in this range make quite a difference.
Ohropax were weaker (18 dB on average) from 160 to 500 Hz (high bass to low mids).
While still decent, our hearing is more sensitive in this range.
I definitely hear more of smaller vehicle traffic noise and barking dogs than with foam.
Fortunately—unlike in the low bass range—in this frequency range even smaller white noise machines can work quite well, so you can compensate for this comparative weakness by playing white noise.
Against higher mid and high frequency noise from 1000 to 8000 Hz (e.g., birds, crickets), Ohropax Classic perform well. They reduce this type of noise by more than 30 dB on average.
Now, these were my ears and your results may be somewhat different.
But, the results illustrate the relative strengths and weaknesses and the earplugs’ potential.
How to use Ohropax wax earplugs
The manufacturer markets them as on-ear earplugs; unlike foam earplugs, they are meant to seal the ear canal at the entrance and not go into the ear.
After you get the hang of it, they are easy to use.
Here are the three basic steps to apply them
1. First, remove the cotton wrapping.
2. Warm the wax in your hands to make it malleable and roll the earplugs into a ball.
3. Place the ball in your ear and flatten it by pressing gently in the direction of the ear canal entrance.
Warning: contrary to what some online advice states, do not roll them into a cone and insert them into the ear! They may block a bit more noise, but if you are unlucky you won’t get them out in one piece.
Here is the manufacturer video with English sub titles:
Tips for better performance
- Pull up your ear with the other hand while flattening the earplug and swallow to equalize pressure.
- I press in the direction of the canal opening (slightly upward, rather than straight horizontally); this way the earplugs block more noise, and I get less of an occlusion effect (see below).
- After a few minutes the earplugs become softer; I give them a gentle final push while pulling up my ear and swallowing.
Best use cases
These are a good choice if you want to reduce everyday noise but don’t want to stick something in your ear. They can work for smaller as well as larger ear canals.
Examples: Sleeping, studying, reducing noise while shopping or in a coffee shop, meditating, using louder kitchen appliances, vacuuming.
Ohropax Classic wax and other earplugs that sit at the ear canal entrance are more likely to amplify body-generated sounds (occlusion effect), including the impact sounds from walking.
So I wouldn’t use them for running.
Also while—thanks to their stickiness—they mostly maintain a good seal, it is not as solid as that of well-fitted foam earplugs. I wouldn’t use them when operating machinery that vibrates (e.g., jack hammers).
Cons and Challenges
- While I don’t mind, not everyone likes Ohropax’s stickiness. When you use them, they leave a bit of a residue on your fingers and also at your ear canal entrance.
- In a dusty or oily workshop, you likely won’t get many days out of them. And as a single-use earplug they are a bit pricey.
- Stronger occlusion effect than with in-ear plugs: they seal at the ear entrance and trap body generated sounds in the canal, potentially amplifying them. This includes, for example, your own voice (sounds boomy), heart beat, and walking impact sounds.
Note: I am able to reduce this effect by flattening the earplugs somewhat more in the direction of the ear canal entrance.
- They provide moderate higher bass and lower mid frequency noise reduction. This means they won’t reduce snoring noise and the barks of larger dogs as well as good in-ear earplugs.
For more information on how wax, putty, and foam compare, also read the post Foam vs Wax vs Silicone Earplugs.
How long can you use a pair of Ohropax wax earplugs
According to the manufacturer, these are disposable earplugs. They can’t be easily cleaned.
For sleeping, I can use one pair for about two weeks.
When they have become dirty or lost their stickiness, I replace them. To keep them clean, I put them in an earplug container or a small zip lock bag.
- Attenuation data (ANSI S3. 19-1974), product insert
- Noise reduction table 40 Hz to 8 Khz, own test (n=1)