Methods - HEARsmart

The testing behind What Plug?

To create the What Plug? resource, we did a whole lot of testing – and because we are sciency types, we thought we’d share our methods …

Lab-based testing

First we tested the attenuation level of each earplug to find out how much sound reduction is provided when wearing the plugs. The tests were conducted in a sound-treated room at the National Acoustic Laboratories in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand standard (AS/NZS 1270:2002). The standard requires that each earplug is worn and tested by untrained subjects.

We tested a total of 100 people in order to calculate the attenuation (SLC80) of each earplug. The earplugs were then classified into three attenuation categories: low (0-7 SLC80), medium (8-10 SLC80) or high (11-14 SLC80).

Real world testing

When deciding between different earplugs, attenuation is an important consideration, but there are other things to think about too, like how do the earplugs affect the music? How do they feel in your ears? How do they look?

To find out, we asked 56 kind and generous gig-goers to wear the earplugs out and about at music venues. They ventured far and wide and reported back from venues as diverse as Yah Yahs, The Lansdowne, Splendour in the Grass and even Ibiza!

Our subjects assessed the earplugs in terms of comfort, fit, ease of handling, appearance, discreetness, ease of dancing and conversation, and most importantly sound quality. We then converted these scores to an overall rating based on sound quality (40%); comfort and fit (25%); appearance and discreetness (25%); and impact on dancing (10%). They also gave us their honest opinion about the plugs, so we’ve added in some of their comments too.


If you have any questions or feedback about the content of the review, please do get in touch with us at: hearsmart at hearingcrc dot org – we’d love to hear from you!