Many of us like to reach for a pair of the best noise-cancelling headphones or best noise-cancelling earbuds when we want to keep the outside world at bay and reduce unwanted distractions. But for the 1.1 billion people at risk of hearing damage from too much noise – and the millions who suffer with tinnitus or noise sensitivity in social situations – turning up the volume isn’t always an option.
Music has always been a huge part of my life, but decades of clubbing and concertgoing (along with the subsequent ear ringing) have definitely taken a toll on my hearing. Moreover, I’ve become increasingly aware that I am (and always have been) super sensitive to noise in most work and social settings, which makes concentrating on the task at hand – think finish a writing deadline or chatting over dinner in a restaurant – not just difficult, but pretty exhausting.
Of course, when I’m at home, it’s easy for me to pop in some earplugs to drown out the sounds of my boyfriend’s simultaneous videogaming and podcast-listening pursuits, along the cowboy builders who’ve been working next door for the last five months from dawn till dusk. But wearing earplugs out and about isn’t always an option when you’re trying to experience everything life has to offer.
Thank heavens then for those clever people at Belgian lifestyle brand Loop, who you may or may not have seen all over TikTok. Famed for their Quiet, Engage, and Experience earplugs that provide different levels of hearing protection to suit different moods and surroundings, their latest innovation, the Switch, combines the brand’s core products into 3-in-1 mechanical design so you can effortlessly transition between social, active, and focus-orientated states whilst keeping your ears properly protected. Best of all, they really work, and I won’t leave home without them. Here’s why.
LOOP SWITCH REVIEW: PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The Loop Switch is now available to buy in four colours – White, Pink, Blue, and Black – for a recommended retail price of £54.95 / $59.95 / AU$94.95 from Loop UK / Loop US / Loop Australia and selected third party retailers including Amazon UK.
LOOP SWITCH REVIEW: DESIGN
When you open the sleek packaging on the Loop Switch, you’ll find your earplugs nestling in a convenient keychain carry case already fitted with the medium size interchangeable ear tips. Surrounding the case are three other pairs of food-grade silicone ear tips in sizes extra small, small, and large to help you find your perfect fit, plus a simple user manual that guides you through the different noise reduction levels on offer.
On first look, the Loop Switch earplugs (which launched October 2023) are understandably a little chunkier than the brand’s previous models because they perform three noise reducing functions rather than one. But make no mistake, they’re still petite enough to misplace if you put them down without thinking.
While the Quiet, Engage, and Experience earplugs all feature a loop made of plastic or silicone that is fixed to the interchangeable silicone ear tips – the loop performs several functions aside from looking cool, helping you to easily insert and remove the earplugs while also keeping them securely and comfortably in place in the concha of the ear (that hollow bit in the middle) – the Switch is more fleshed out with a small hole in the centre.
With their slightly bulkier duo-tone design made from durable and reusable materials, the Switch earplugs lack the ear jewellery vibes of Loop’s other earplugs. But they’re small and discreet enough not to be noticed if you’re looking at someone face on, as well as sleek and stylish enough to wear with pride if someone does notice them.
On the side of each Switch earplug, you’ll see a very small mechanical switch you can move up and down with a fingertip in line with three tiny circles/loops of varying thickness that are printed on the side to indicate the level of noise reduction.
On the back, you’ll also notice each Switch earplug is marked with either an ‘L’ or an ‘R’ to indicate which ear you put them in. This is different from Loop’s other earplugs, because it doesn’t matter which ears you put the Quiet, Engage, and Experience earplugs in, but you do need to pay attention when you insert the Switch earplugs, otherwise they won’t fit properly and you won’t be able to access the switches.
LOOP SWITCH REVIEW: FEATURES
Undoubtedly, the standout feature of the Loop Switch is the 3-in-1 multi-level noise reduction design that lets you filter out unwanted background noise depending on your mood and surroundings.
At the click of a switch, you can move back and forth between the Engage mode at the top of the earplug, the Experience mode in the centre, or the Quiet mode at the bottom to enjoy between 17 to 25 dB (SNR) of noise reduction depending on the level you select. As with all of Loop’s earplugs, the Switch earplugs offer certified hearing protection [PPE] when inserted properly.
Breaking down the three modes further, the Engage setting provides up to 17 dB of noise reduction and is meant for use in social settings like family get-togethers and meetings. It works by allowing low and mid frequencies to pass through while reducing high frequency noises to help manage noise sensitivity, remove distractions, and allow for clear communication and conversation.
The Experience setting provides up to 21 dB of noise reduction to reduce potentially ear-damaging sound frequencies while keeping sound quality clear. For that reason, it’s best suited for use at live experiences like concerts and festivals, or during your daily commute, but it’s also suitable for loud activities such as motorcycling.
The Quiet setting minimises sound across all frequencies to reduce noise up to 25 dB for peace and quiet on demand and is intended for use during those moments when you want to relax or focus and get in your bubble. While Loop says it is okay to sleep in the Loop Switch, like you would the best sleep headphones, they do admit they’re not the most comfortable option, mainly because they are solid and lack the softness and flexibility of the Loop Quiet which are made entirely of silicone and are recommended for sleep.
LOOP SWITCH REVIEW: PERFORMANCE
I’ve been testing out the Loop Switch earplugs for four months in all kinds of noisy environments, and while it’s safe to say I won’t go anywhere without them now, I’ve also become fairly dependent on them for WFH and relaxation too.
After playing around with the interchangeable ear tips to find my perfect fit, I’ve been able to pop the Loop Switch earplugs in my ears first thing in the morning and forget about them for the rest of the day unless I notice I want to adjust the noise level. Very comfortable and super lightweight, I’m happy to report they never give me that achy ear feeling I’ve experienced wearing standard foam or wax ear plugs.
Having already tried Loop’s other types of earplugs, I was excited to test out the new Switch. The idea of having a 3-in-1 earplug offering multi-level noise reduction definitely appealed to me over carrying several kinds of Loop earplugs around with me all day in case I needed them – which is the reason why Loop created them following customer feedback.
I’ll admit I struggled to remember which mode was which at first, and there were times in the early days when I had to take the earplugs out so I could set the mode before putting them back in. But moving between the three modes becomes easy-peasy with a few weeks of practice: once you remember you get the least sound reduction when the switch is at the top of the earplug, and that the noise reduction increases as you move the switch downwards, changing modes honestly becomes second nature.
I found the Loop Switch really excelled on a day out to the O2 for my birthday where shopping, a meal, and an S Club concert was on the itinerary. Being someone who gets easily overwhelmed and overstimulated by noise in social settings, I usually feel exhausted after a few hours of being surrounded by crowds, but the Switch earplugs helped me stay chilled yet fully engaged with everything that was going on around me.
I felt vastly calmer and less overwhelmed wearing them in the Quiet mode on the tube, and the Engage mode helped to me communicate clearly and calmly with my partner while shopping and eating because they tuned out a lot of the outside interference, of which there was a lot because S Club played two dates on the same day so there were thousands and thousands of hyped up people milling around.
I was especially grateful for the Switch earplugs during the concert because I don’t think I’ve ever heard screaming like it. In the Experience mode, I could hear the music accurately, but the earplugs just took the deafening edge off all the singing and whooping around me, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t come out of a concert with ringing ears. After a long day out, I felt full of energy and ready to carry on the night rather than desperate for peace and quiet.
It’s probably important to note that Loop’s earplugs aren’t designed to block out noise completely, even in the Quiet mode. Instead, they filter noise so that music and speech remain clear but less loud, so customers can ‘live life at their volume’. So, if you’re looking for total silence, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you want a convenient solution to noise control that will take you from desk to disco to downtime and back again, this is it.
LOOP SWITCH REVIEW: VERDICT
The Loop Switch earplugs offer a convenient 3-in-1 noise control solution that lets you seamlessly switch between the Engage mode, the Experience mode, and the Quiet mode to reduce volume by 17 dB, 21dB, or 25 dB respectively depending on your mood and your surroundings.
While they don’t block noise completely, these mechanical earplugs do provide certified hearing protection when inserted correctly and are suitable for people who suffer from tinnitus or noise sensitivity issues. Lightweight and comfortable for all day wear, they offer a stylish and discreet solution to transitioning between social, active, and focus-orientated states.