Ear Tips

Ear tip selection and use is key

Ear Tip Selection

The right ear tips will make or break your experience with an in-the-ear headset. Everyone has a different ear canal and may find better performance or more comfortable ear tips than those we include with our headsets. We encourage you to experiment. Your ear canals are unique to you and your left and right may require different size ear tips. Don’t discount this possibility. We ship the CQ1 with tubes appropriate to use with many premium ear tips. If you have a favorite pair of disposable ear plugs, you can even make your own ear tips that will work with the CQ1 from those.

Let’s consider some of the properties of ear tips we’re looking for with the CQ1:

Noise attenuation. This is the first consideration for most of us. The amount of noise blocking capability of any foam ear tip is completely dependent on the quality of insertion into the ear canal. Most other properties of a foam tip should be tailored to make you successful at this.  The video below provides a good demonstration of a proper insertion procedure.

Foam recovery rate. A foam tip needs to be rolled into a shape that is smaller than its nominal relaxed state and inserted into the ear canal where it expands and creates a positive seal. If the foam is such that it rebounds or recovers to its original shape too quickly, you will not have sufficient time to accomplish proper placement in the ear canal. Many foam types recover at different rates related to temperature. We’ve seen some foam ear tips in use that spring back way too fast.

Comfort. Of course this is important. We’re choosing not to have a headset clamped to our heads and we don’t want to just trade that for a new mode of torture.  A big consideration for comfort is selecting the correct size ear tip for each of your ear canals. Many of us have left and right ear canals that are quite different in size and shape. An ear tip that is too big will become uncomfortable on a long flight. If you’re in search of the lap of luxury, you’ll want to try a premium heat sensitive memory foam tip. You just might never go back.

Time Between Replacement. Foam ear tips are not designed for perpetual use and need to be replaced. Their effectiveness is significantly decreased as they get dirty. The standard yellow tips will last about 20 hours for most, or less if those hours are flown far apart. For those that produce a lot of wax, that may be as low as 10-15 hours. Premium ear tips with better foam can last up to 50 hours or so, although, it again depends on each individual.

Ease of Use. For some, rolling an ear tip into a cylinder and getting a great seal in the ear canal is as easy as taking a stroll. For others, it can be a ‘fussy’ process. For the latter, some ear tips use fittings that can create a nice ‘handle’ to aid in getting the ear tip into the ear canal more easily and consistently. It can sometimes be as simple as trimming down the black tubing on the standard yellow ear tips. Other times, it can be using a premium ear tip that has a solid core partnered with sturdy tubing that connects it to the standard fitting on the sound tube.

Non-Foam Ear Tips. The details above apply mostly to foam ear tips. Other options include triple flange silicone ear tips and custom molded ear tips.  We believe that the noise attenuation of these ear tips are inferior when compared to foam ear tips inserted correctly. However, the triple flange silicone ear tips are exceptionally easy to insert quickly and last a long time. They might be appropriate for short flights or for passengers as they can be cleaned between uses.  While molded ear plugs will work with the CQ1, they are not recommended as they do not provide as good of a seal as foam-style ear tips.

Ear Tip Insertion

It is critical that the ear tips seal up all the open space in the ear canal in order to provide the best comfort and hearing protection.  It isn’t as simple as pushing in the ear tip.

For a bit of a deep dive into the proper insertion and fit of ear tips, see this paper by 3M E-A-R.

In the video below, you’ll find a good explanation of how to prepare the ear tip before placing it in the ear canal as well as some of the failure modes and why you might not be getting the best possible sound blocking available from the ear tip.  Here is what the CDC says about ear tip insertion that is completely applicable.