What are the Bose Sleepbuds?
In short, this product is designed people who just can’t get to sleep without some added noise help. Bose created a set of truly wireless earbuds to drown out the air conditioner, tinnitus, or really any unwanted noise around you. Earplugs alone aren’t up to the task if you have tinnitus, so this is a one-size-fits-all solution for insomniacs out there.
Unlike other truly wireless earbuds, these aren’t built to listen to music as you sleep, no: they only work with the Bose Sleep app. There, you can choose between a number of ambient recordings for you to zonk out to. Basically, it’s a white noise machine that won’t annoy your partner (or downstairs neighbors).
While I would have preferred some sort of noise-cancelling or more effective isolation, I understand why this was impossible. Basically, it’s all about comfort: having little earbuds jammed deep in your ear canal can be distractingly uncomfortable, so Bose elected to not risk poking your sensitive ear bits with a large nozzle. These buds sit just outside your ear canal, held in place by a helix fin so they don’t fall out if you toss and turn.
How do the Bose Sleepbuds work?
Billed as a set of noise-masking earbuds, the Bose Sleepbuds do not offer any noise cancellation or much isolation. Instead, they play ambient sound recordings — from a campfire to a rainy day — to drown out the world around you. Normally this can be a very risky thing to do, but this particular product manages its output well, as I’ll outline below. It will not damage your hearing due to noise exposure on its own.
When people talk about a sound “drowning out” another, they’re really referring to a phenomenon called auditory masking, where your brain (and ears) will prevent you from perceiving quieter sounds with similar notes. If there’s a louder sound (a masker), you won’t hear the quieter sounds you’d normally get annoyed by.
As you can imagine, this is the least-preferable method of dealing with unwanted noise, as it’s most likely to damage your hearing. However, there’s no issue if the total sound pressure level (SPL) that reaches your eardrum remains under 80dB. Considering the ear tips physically block some sound already, the Bose Sleepbuds aren’t as dangerous to your long-term hearing health as you might expect.
Do the Bose Sleepbuds work well?
While it’s hard to objectively assess new product categories as they arise, the Bose Sleepbuds weren’t actually all that challenging to pin down. Considering their entire purpose is to drown out sound, there’s only a few things we need to figure out:
- Can they mask normal apartment sounds?
- Are they safe to use?
- How long is the battery capable of lasting?
With this in mind, I tested these using an air conditioner at full blast and a test head over some time. For the most part, this product works as advertised — with little else to discuss. The Sleepbuds mask out enough normal sounds to work as intended. If for whatever reason you’re unable to block out the noise around you, that’s a serious problem. This product is designed to be safe to use, and if the sound levels around you are so high they can’t be used effectively, you’re likely already in danger of hearing loss without them.
It may seem a little useless to point out, but the Sleepbuds can only drown out so much noise. While that may annoy you, it’s for the best — otherwise they’d be unsafe to use.