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Christmas Gift Guide
Headphones

Fund this: Smart earplugs promise a better night's sleep

Having already blasted past its fundraising goal, this smartphone-controlled sleep aid is now working toward stretch goals.

hush-smart-earplugs.jpg
Hush

I'm an earplug convert. In recent years, I've discovered that foam earplugs can deliver sleep salvation, not only when I'm traveling, but also in my own bed.

However, foam alone offers little help against snoring, loud voices, barking dogs, and certain other sounds. Thus I'm pretty jazzed about Kickstarter project Hush, which combines foam-based noise blocking with in-ear speakers. The result: the world's first "smart" earplugs.

If you're familiar with noise-cancelling headphones, you might think these are more or less the same thing, just shrunk down to earplug size and set free from wires. But there's no active noise-cancellation at work here; instead, the earplugs are like a pair of tiny MP3 players preloaded with noise-masking sounds.

These include not just the sounds you'd normally find in a white-noise app -- babbling brook, ocean waves, thunderstorm, and so on -- but also binaural beats, which can actually help induce sleep.

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Can these really be comfortable, especially for a side-sleeper? Hush

Meanwhile, there's an app (for Android and iOS) that lets you choose the sound you want and configure various settings, such as which notifications are allowed through. Equally important, it lets you set alarms, thereby overcoming a problem inherent to ordinary earplugs. (As an added bonus, your alarm won't awaken your partner, as only you'll be able to hear it.)

At first blush, Hush raises a bunch of questions, at least for me -- but that hasn't stopped backers from demolishing the $100,000 funding goal. It's already past $200,000, with nearly a month left to go.

Even so, I'd have a hard time backing this without knowing two things. First, how well does it really work at blocking outside noise? And, second, will it mash too far into my ear when I sleep on my side? Comfort is a key concern.

So is price: at around $150, this is not an inexpensive product (though early backers can still get in for $115, or $199 for two pairs). They ship anywhere in the world, and the US early price of $115 converts to around £75 or AU$135.

But I'm definitely intrigued. I love the little sliding-drawer charging case, which reminds me of the one Motorola uses for the Moto Hint headset. And it definitely appears to solve the problem associated with most smartphone-powered sleep aids: the need for wired and/or bulky earphones.

Your thoughts?