Better living through technology

The Smurf, Flickr

There’s no shortage of gadgets that create an ideal sound environment by masking unwanted noise or crafting healthy soundscapes. Here are some of the best products to calm your senses and help you focus at the task at hand.

1. Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones

In many ways, we have Apple to thank for an uptick in hearing loss in this country. We crank up the volume on those ubiquitous, cheap, white earbuds, so we might enjoy our playlists over the din of street traffic, the treadmill, or a noisy office environment. If you’re going to do one thing to help protect your hearing, ditch the earbuds and buy some quality noise-cancelling headphones. Author Don Campbell of “Healing at the Speed of Sound” insists that this is one small change that can truly transform your life.

A favorite of frequent fliers and audiophiles alike, Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones are the gold standard in noise canceling technology. These soft, memory foam-cushioned headphones fit over the ear to instantly reduce background noise, before you even turn your music on. In fact, Campbell recommends wearing these headphones in planes, trains, or in the subway, just to block out the low groaning noise that can reach up to 100 decibels. Tune out the world and tune into your music or sweet, blissful silence after fighting your way through the security line at the airport. You’ll arrive at your destination more relaxed, rested, and happy.

2. Philips Fidelio DS1100 Speaker Dock with Clock for iPod/iPhone

We know that breakfast is the most important meal of a day. But how much thought have you given to your “sound breakfast?” Whether you wake up to the annoying buzz of a typical alarm clock, traffic reports on the radio, or a soothing Mozart concerto can make all the difference. For better mornings that lead to better, less-stressful days, wake up to the peaceful sound of morning songbirds or upbeat classical music. The Phillips Fidelio speaker dock delivers a surround sound effect due to its powerful 360 degree speaker, and unlike many alarm clock docking stations it works seamlessly with the iPhone 4. The dock can also charge two separate devices at once. The free Philips Fidelio companion app allows you to unlock even more features like custom alarms and thousands of internet radio stations.

3. Naturespace app

Advertising true holographic audio, Naturespace delivers some of the most lifelike nature tracks out there. A great tool for visualization or meditation, Naturespace tracks like “Summer Mountain Valley” and “Riverwind Dreaming,” can also provide a mellow accompaniment to work requiring focused concentration. The app adjusts its sound quality for either earbuds or headphones, delivering high-quality binaural sound. Naturespace comes loaded with six tracks. However, you can download a slew of other inspiring tracks for 99 cents to $3.99.

4. Decibel Meter Pro

This handy app measures surrounding noise levels and easily alerts you when noise levels become dangerously high. Keep in mind that subjecting your ears to sustained levels of 80 dB or above can cause eventual hearing loss. Sounds over 130 dB are likely to cause immediate permanent hearing damage. A noisy office can easily reach 80 dB, and noise in an airplane cabin can easily reach up to 100 dB. Check your office environment. You might be surprised.

5. Ommwriter

Our twitter feed, facebook page, and Google alerts often compete for our attention when we’re trying to concentrate on a difficult task. This is especially true for writers and journalists who use web research in their daily work. Ommwriter is an application designed by a creative agency in Spain to help their copywriters concentrate. The Ommwriter text editing program eliminates all distraction by providing the writer with a soft, muted screen, new age music soundtrack, and a full-screen mode where you can customize the sound your keystrokes, your font, and music, providing a peaceful, reflective space for creativity to flourish.

6. Pick up a musical instrument

Playing an instrument is a low-tech way to encourage concentration, multi-level thinking, and creativity. Scientists insist that when you learn a musical instrument, you rewire your brain in such a way that organizes your thinking, improves spatial reasoning, and can help you strengthen your logic and language skills. It’s no secret that Steve Jobs was an avid guitar player and Andrew Mason, founder of Groupon, was a music major and an accomplished pianist.

7. Create the soundtrack to your life with Pandora and Grooveshark

It’s likely you already use one or both of these music sites and apps. But you could be in a Pandora rut. If you usually select Lady Gaga radio on Pandora, try something different. When you need to concentrate, tune into the highly-organized music of Mozart or Bach or some relaxing, yet invigorating instrumental jazz piano like Bill Evans or Keith Jarret. Then, select your favorite tracks and add them to a specific playlist at (or if you’re flush with cash, download them in iTunes). When faced with a mundane task like cleaning the house or organizing your inbox, play some afro jazz by Fela Kuti or Jamaican rock steady by Desmond Dekker. You’ll be whistling while your work in no time. The brain craves diverse stimuli. Don’t hold back.

For playlist suggestions or comments contact @jenniferia on Twitter.