Is Blu-tack as effective at attenuating sound as over-the-counter ear plugs?
A new study has revealed that using Blu-tack to protect the ears can be as effective as inserting custom-made, shop-bought earplugs from Boots and Aearo.
Researchers from the University Hospital of South Manchester and the Withington Community Hospital have reported their findings in The Journal of Laryngology & Otology. They conclude that Blu-tack – a non-toxic adhesive putty produced by Bostik since the 1970s – is a ‘comfortable alternative to over-the-counter ear plugs for the attenuation of everyday sound.’
Numerous means of hearing protection are available to prevent the negative physiological and psychological effects that can be caused by the noise we are exposed to on a daily basis. Designed to be ‘affordable, comfortable, and disposable’, they aim to attenuate mid to high frequency sounds by 20-30 dB. They are usually made from foam, putty, wax, and silicone polymers and can be purchased at most pharmacies. Blu-tack can now be counted as an additional option when it comes to defending against noise.
The idea for the investigation came from main author G J Watson who, when using Blu-tack to prevent water from entering the ears following the insertion of ventilation tubes, noticed that it attenuated sound.
Nineteen volunteers participated in the study. They were provided with E-A-Rsoft disposable yellow foam plugs (Aearo), Boots Muffles wax ear plugs, Boots Flight ear plugs, and Blu-tack. Their hearing thresholds were assessed before and after the insertion of the ear plugs at 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8 kHz. The results were compared with hearing thresholds after the insertion of Blu-tack.
Volunteers were also asked to assess how easy to insert the ear plugs and Blu-tack were, how comfortable they were, and how much peace of mind they offered.
Blu-tack was not as effective as the ear plugs at attenuating sound at low frequencies, but performed as well as the ear plugs at frequencies over 3 kHz. And, perhaps surprisingly, Blu-tack was rated as significantly more comfortable to wear. Participants found that Blu-tack was as easy to insert as the ear-plugs, and offered them the same peace of mind.
The authors conclude that Blu-tack is as effective as over-the-counter ear plugs at attenuating frequencies above 3 kHz. It was considered comfortable and safe to use and could therefore be regarded as an alternative option when wishing to attenuate everyday sound.