I haven't slept much this week, as is usually the case at CES, but I almost managed to catch a few winks in the unlikeliest of places yesterday evening: a crowded show floor. That's because I was testing out Hush, a product described by its creators as the "world's first smart earplugs." Hush consists of two wireless plugs that fit snugly into your ears and play masking sounds designed to help you get to sleep.
Getting the right size is really important with Hush; I had to try a few sets of tips before I got a proper seal. But once I did, the effect was impressive. You can load various noises onto the earplugs from a smartphone app, like white and pink noise, binaural beats, and "heavenly" ethereal sounds, and with the pink noise in particular I found it pretty much impossible to hear anything around me unless it was loud and I was really listening for it. The sounds are stored on the earplugs themselves once loaded, which the company says helps preserve battery life for a full night of sleep. The plugs charge in a sleek little case that can also be used as an external battery for your phone.
I really think I could have slept in that terrible room
As luck would have it, mattress startup Casper also had an booth in the same room, so I decided to put Hush to the test in an actual bed. I can't think of many worse places to sleep than a CES event, but the combination of pink noise and ear seal almost completely blocked out my surroundings, even with editor Thomas Ricker yelling at me. Although professional responsibilities unfortunately stopped me from legitimately nodding off, once I pulled the cover over my head I really think I could have slept in that terrible room. (The ultra-comfy Casper mattress and pillow certainly helped, although a big part of their whole pitch is that you can't judge a mattress from a brief demo; the company has a 100-day return policy.)
One really important aspect of Hush is comfort. It's the main reason for the product to exist versus just using a binaural beats app with regular in-ear phones — especially now that good wireless ones exist. Everyone's ears are different, but for me at least I found the Hush earplugs very comfortable, even when I was "sleeping" on my side. You can also elect to allow phone calls and alarms through, meaning you can fall asleep safe in the knowledge that you can be woken up if need be.
As with almost everything prefaced with "smart" at CES, Hush doesn't strike me as a mass-market product. But I also think some people will really love it, and its designers appear to have executed well on the concept that raised nearly $600,000 on Kickstarter in 2014. The product is available to preorder now and set to ship next month for $150.