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These hollow ear buds let important sounds through

If you’re sensitive to sound, these special buds make life less overwhelming

On left, person holding clear ear buds in palm. On right, purple ear buds. Credit: Flare Audio / Reviewed

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  1. Product image of Flare Audio Calmer

    Flare Audio Calmer

When you're sensitive to sound, noise-canceling headphones aren’t always the best fix. They may muffle the crush of public transportation or the clatter of a busy social event, but they require device interaction, can weigh heavily on our bodies, and block out too much sound to be reasonable for all circumstances. Flare Audio Calmer earbuds (available at Amazon) offer a potential solution to that problem.

$30 at Amazon

My sound sensitivities are caused by the post-viral illness Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CFS). It means the constant mechanical buzzes, beeps, and hums of our modern world scrape through my brain and down my spine. A moderately loud dog bark sends my pulse racing, and the steady rumble of a traffic jam wipes me out as if I’d run the highway home, not driven it.

Those with long COVID-19, autism, and various chronic invisible illnesses can experience these noise sensitivities. Disability aids for this population usually include foam or electric earbuds or headphones designed to turn the volume of all sounds down or off.

But removing sound entirely also separates us from the non-disabled world. People want to hear a conversation, music, birdsong, and many other lovely sounds. They just don’t want the car motors and microwave beeps that jump us into fight-or-flight mode.

This makes Flare Audio's Calmer earbuds a welcome contribution to the disability space.

How do Calmer ear buds work?

On left, cartoon being overstimulated in public. On right, cartoon using earbuds to calm herself.
Credit: Flare Audio

Calmer earbuds dull harsh noise, from loud city sounds to nearby conversations.

Flare Audio’s Calmer are tiny, single-piece ear devices that sit gently inside the ear canal. They’re wireless and don’t connect to an app or device. And, unlike foam or wax earplugs, they’re hollow inside.

Rather than muffle or remove volume entirely, the Flare Calmer earbuds create a tiny waveguide within the shell shape of the ear that smooths out only mid-frequency sounds—those between 2 kHz and 8 kHz. They’re the car engines, machine hums, slamming doors, and piercing dog barks that progressively exhaust.

By concentrating and smoothing out those sounds, the fight-or-flight response fades. High frequencies and low frequencies remain clear. The brain has less work to do in filtering and adjusting as it navigates the world. The wearer feels calmer as a result.

What I like

They’re subtle

I immediately went for a drive after first popping them in. I soon noticed that I could keep the car’s windows down: the sound of a truck passing usually floods and befuddles my brain, but now felt like a harmless rumble.

Sounds like dehumidifiers, fans, and a lawnmower next door became less noticeable. When I regularly wear the Calmer buds, I can focus on work for extended periods of time. I’m less distracted by sound, and less depleted energetically as a result.

They’re proven to work

After scanning a stream of robustly positive comments on Facebook from the autistic community, I became curious about how Calmer earbuds might work for me. Countless further client case studies illustrate how they’ve actively made a difference in the lives of those with sensitive hearing disorders, too. But I feel most confident in that official consultancy reports confirm their efficacy. You can learn via various reports on their website how sound waves hit the ear with and without the buds.

They’re comfortable

Person wearing red earbud in ear canal to block out sound.
Credit: Flare Audio

The soft feel of silicon makes long lasting use painless.

Calmer earbuds are so lightweight I couldn’t get my kitchen scale to register them at one gram. And they’re made of a soft-touch silicone, which molds easily to fit the shape of the ear and has proven to be extremely durable. This means—unlike headphones or wired earbuds—I wear them through the day and barely register that they’re in.

They’re affordable

Calmer earbuds are about $30 per pair, making them far more affordable than many hearing devices or quality noise-canceling headphones. They come in four colors: purple, mint, grey, and translucent. They offer two sizes: standard and mini.

What I don’t like

The fit isn’t 100% secure

Rubber ear buds being inserted into ears.
Credit: Flare Audio

These small earbuds have the potential to get easily lost if users aren't careful.

There are downsides to these buds being so subtle: If I take off a mask or sunglasses and knock one out, I might not register it’s gone. I prefer the translucent option of the four because it makes them nearly invisible, but that also makes them hard to find if I drop them in a parking lot.

After losing the standard size in my left ear (twice), I got a pair of minis. These fit more securely, but I’m not sure I get the best effect with them, comparatively, so I often use them in situations where I might lose the standard size. I wish there were more sizing options to solve that problem. And because they ship from the UK, it may take a few weeks for a replacement pair of buds to arrive.

Should you buy them?

If noise is sometimes a problem for you, absolutely.

Rubber ear buds next to packaging.
Credit: Flare Audio / Reviewed

Calmer ear buds are a great investment for those who struggle with noise.

Thousands of reviews suggest Calmer earbuds work wonders for many people with varying illnesses and sound disorders. A relatively new Calmer Pro version boasts an aluminum reflector within the silicone shell, revealing even more details in harmless sound. But as I live a relatively quiet life, I haven’t shelled out for them. If you’re more readily introduced to busy or overwhelming environments, you might want to check them out.

If looking to reduce the volume of all sound, Vibes reusable earbuds cost $27. If I were to get more techy, I might try Nuheara’s IQbuds MAX. They’re a hefty $500 and are more for those with hearing loss than sound sensitivities. However, they offer customizable noise cancellation and reduction monitored via an accompanying app.

Overall, Flare Audio’s Calmer buds proved to be a decent solution to my sound-sensitivity woes and are well worth considering. Even if they get lost, they’re still cheap and effective enough to replace.

$30 at Amazon

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  1. Product image of Flare Audio Calmer

    Flare Audio Calmer