I love music and have always found it to be helpful in my work environment. It helps set my mood, engages my creativity, and often works as a metronome of sorts setting a pace to work at.
More often than not, I work in a very loud environment and need to blast the music just to be heard over the atmospheric noise produced by grinding, hammering, sawing, or whatever other kind of racket I might be immersed in.
As a maker, you may have faced this same issue. So what do we do?
Blasting stereos is not a great solution because they can overwhelm a space and become distracting. This is also a poor strategy if you have neighbors.
Headphones help to hear the music more clearly but offer no protection against the potential harmful sounds in the space. Of course, the headphones themselves can cause significant damage to your hearing if they are too aggressive, which they often need to be to be heard in a loud space.
Another complication is hearing protection. We stuff plugs into our ears and cover them with thick muffs to decrease the damaging, high frequencies which leave us with muffled low tones that get mixed up in the droning of the machines.
This ebb and flow of sound blurs the boundaries between the music, the noise and the rest of the atmosphere. Sometimes the sound in the space can be so convoluted, that it starts to produce a psychedelic effect. Under different circumstances, this might be cool, but in this scenario, its just dangerous.
I made these “Safetyphones” as an experiment and potential solution to this problem. They are a pair of safety earmuffs with headphones embedded in them. They offer me the protection from damaging, outside noise while allowing me to listen to music inside the protective area at a reasonable level.
Step 1: Safetyphones
I started with an old pair of earmuffs.
Step 2: Safetyphones
I carefully pried the muffs apart and inspected the interior.
There were three elements:
1. the outer padding,
2. inner foam
3. and the hard plastic housing.
Step 3: Safetyphones
Once I saw how much space was available for me to use, I began to look for an appropriately sized set of headphones. I didn't want to remove / modify any of the foam and risk decreasing the quality of protection if I didn't have to, so finding speakers that fit inside the cavity was important.
Luckily, my housemate is a musician and there were multiple, orphaned pairs of broken headphones floating throughout the basement. As is the case with most broken things however, the damage was superficial and most of these still worked.
Step 4: Safetyphones
Once I found a pair that that would fit inside the cavity of the earmuff, I disassembled the housing and stripped the speaker down to their base.
I have to say, these headphones were well made. They were bolted together making it easy for dis-assembly.
Step 5: Safetyphones
I cut small grooves into the protective foam with a pair of scissors for the speaker wires to pass through.
Then I marked the plastic housing where they meet the foam and cut more grooves for the wires.
The plastic was too tough for the scissors so a firm grip and a razor knife ended up being the best solution for cutting these grooves.
Caution - make sure that you always cut away from your fingers and hands when using razors of any cunning tools
Step 6: Safetyphones
I replaced the foam, embedded the speaker and snapped the components back together.
Step 7: Safetyphones
The earmuffs are a little ratty, but everything worked great when tested.
The muffs act a layer of protection that keeps me safe from the harmful, high frequency sounds in the shop.
They also create small space where I can play music at a reasonable level.
No more oppressively loud stereo blasting, nor more annoyed neighbors, no more arguments about musical taste with shop mates and no more hearing damage!
These also work great on public transportation, but as it should be in all facets of life, always be aware of your environment at all times!
Enjoy and be safe and productive.