Hush Smart Earplugs Review: Beyond the veil of sleep, Bluetooth-style

I've never been a good sleeper. Ever since I was a kid I'd toss and turn hours past my bedtime, chasing elusive Z's and secretly panicking as the clock ticked closer to reveille. As an adult, I've gotten better at shutting my brain down and nodding off, but throw in distractions like noise, lights, or the impending existential dread that can grip us all in the dark of the night, and it's easy enough for my brain to cling desperately to consciousness and leave me exhausted for the following day. This is where Hush smart earplugs come in.

Smart earplugs? No, these discrete Bluetooth-enabled units from Hush don't boost your IQ by whispering the contents of Wikipedia into your ears from dusk 'till dawn. Actually, they don't really even do all that much streaming when connected to your smart phone, as it wouldn't make sense to plunder your device's battery life in the name of a good night's sleep.

What the Hush smart earplugs actually do is far more clever. Rather than simply rely on creating an air-tight seal around your ear drum as has been standard practice for earplugs since time immemorial, Hush has decided to go above and beyond and use a combination of science and soothing to quiet your mind and block the hustle and bustle of the outside world at the same time.

The concept is so simple you'll wonder why it took until now for someone to bring it to market. Hush earplugs combine noise-masking technology with foam plugs to cut the amount of outside sound hitting your aural canal by as much as 70 db. That's a huge number – in fact, it's close to double what you'd get from an aggressive set of non-masking earplugs – and best of all, the Hush product is dead easy to use.

The plugs themselves come in a small flip-open carrying case that also serves as a charger when connected to a USB power source. A single charge nets you eight hours of use, which should be enough to get most people to sleep, and after carrying the case around with me on my travels I've discovered that I can rely on at least a few days of battery life while on stand-by.

Each plug is formed in smooth white plastic, and can be paired with one of several different-sized foam tips so you can find one that works best for the size of your ears. They weigh almost nothing at all, and their low-profile design keeps them in place without pressing up against your pillow and reminding you they're there.

Once you've got the plugs in place, you can pair them with your mobile phone and decide which type of sound you think will be the most relaxing and/or effective at blocking out noise while you try to sleep. There are many options to choose from – anything from standard white noise, to more exotic pink and brown noise options, to rain sounds and waves crashing on the beach are all loaded inside the well-designed Hush app.

Here's where things get clever. Remember earlier when I mentioned that the Bluetooth connection between the earplugs and your phone was used only sparingly? The Hush devices actually only actively link up when it's time to decide which masking sound you want to go with. It then loads that sound into each plug's internal memory, where it's played on a loop for as long as you have set it up for in the app. That means you're using the battery power in the earplugs, not your phone, while you are sleeping.

I should clarify one thing: the plugs are also capable of playing notifications or alarms from your phone, which means you can set a wake-up call that won't be drowned out by the gentle rush of rain in your ears. For those of us who use our phones as alarm clocks, this is a must-have feature, and it works perfectly – although you have to choose one of the built-in alarm tones from the Hush app rather than the ones you've got already loaded on your mobile device.

I first had the opportunity to test out the Hush smart earplugs on the show floor at CES, and it was their ability to dramatically dampen the chaos of the crowd around me that prompted me to give them a second go in their intended setting. That meant traveling with the plugs and trying them out as a way to combat the disturbance created by the snoring of a beloved family member who shall remain nameless, but whose nocturnal symphony is best described as 'seismic.'

While sharing a hotel room with my kin, I found that the brown and pink noise options on the Hush app did a remarkable job of blocking out the low-range snoring that not even the Sonomax, custom-formed earplugs that I owned were capable of dealing with. The Hush units were also much more comfortable than any other earplug I've used, even though after several hours of wear my inner ears started to feel a little irritated – but that's my sensitive skin talking, not the product itself, as it also happens to me when I wear earbuds too long.

The Hush smart earplugs are an amazing product. It's the perfect example of looking at a classic problem from a fresh angle and applying the latest technology to introduce a new solution. It also helps that the price is right, too: Hush retails the plugs for $149.99. Now, all I need is for someone to invent a time machine so I can head back to the late 80s and hide the Hush earplugs under my childhood pillow and start catching up on all those years of lost sleep.