Be Honest: Are You Wearing Protection?

There are few pleasures greater than extremely loud music, especially when ridiculous amounts of bass are involved.

But are you putting your ears through the ringer?  As in, are they ringing loudly after every show?  Or, even worse, spontaneously ringing during quiet times?

Maybe the iPod generation is hopeless, but when it comes to shows and clubs, the sage advice is to wear protection – every time (sound familiar?)  But what kind?

The first type is for survival.  Everyone’s been caught at a blaring venue with no earplugs, and the best recommendation in that situation is to run to the bathroom, wet two squares of paper towel, and stick one into each ear canal.  Quick-n-dirty!

One step up, and you’ve got basic foam earplugs that cancel lots of nuance.  But with some advanced planning, there are some great, higher-end earplugs that aficionados should try.

We’ve been testing a few, and have had good experiences with plugs from Etymotic and EarPeace.  Etymotic manufactures a range of different customized earphones, headsets, and earplugs, as well as portable noise monitors for those wanting nth-degree protection.  We tried their non-custom ‘high fidelity earplugs’ at a recent Pepper show at Club Nokia in LA, and enjoyed solid 20 decibel (dB) reductions.  But after a snug fit, it was a bit difficult to forget their presence, though extreme highs and sharp snare kicks were managed well.

And, to do it right, you really have to create a snug, deep fit within the ear canal.  In fact, take this more seriously, and you’ll soon realize that proper insertion is critical.  At the ASCAP Expo a few months back, an Etymotic pro pushed the plugs far deeper into the canal than you’d expect, and real protection comes from proper fit and application.

Which brings us to EarPeace, which has an absolutely great, low-profile and affordable plug on the market.  It’s even skin-toned (for various shades) and sold in a cylindrical, metallic carrying case for $12.95.  Problem is, the insertion process is more complicated – and if you’re in a dark club, you’re not about to read the instructions.  That said, the results on a best guess insert were even better: EarPeace somehow preserved a lot more highs, though the decibel reduction was closer to the mid-teens.

Anyway, the real results came after the show, when there was a nice, ring-free calm.  And not at the expense of sound quality or enjoyment.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff, written while listening to music at a reasonable volume (for now). 


7 Responses

  1. Chris

    I have EarPeace and wear them at ever concert I go to. Once you know how to put them in properly, you won’t need to re-read the instructions. Also live in NYC so they are good for the Subway ride TO the concert.

  2. balbers

    I don’t even leave the house without a pair handy. And they’re certainly not just for concerts- movie theatre, sporting events, bars, traveling by plane, restaurants. Either use ear plugs or be stupid, the choice is yours.

    But also- it won’t matter which ones you use if they provide only 10-15 dB of protection. That simply isn’t enough. Concert sound systems are just getting louder and louder and louder. And it’s usually not the big arenas that pose the biggest threat to your ears, because the sound guys working those venues are pros who have some idea about volume levels and who now how to use a dB meter. It’s the clubs where you’ll destroy your hearing because often times the sound guys don’t follow any other rules than setting everything on 11.

    I won’t use ear plugs labelled less than -30 dB. Just the cheap orange foam ones, from Home Depot or CVS or wherever. Sound quality is just fine. Your ears will thank you.

    Repeating- use ear plugs or be stupid. And deaf.

  3. Paul Lanning

    I’ve attended nearly 10,000 gigs in all genres. I stuff wads of kleenex
    tissue into my ears. Haven’t suffered any hearing loss at all. I do have
    moderate tinnitus.

  4. @studiopros

    Far too many musicians forget to protect their greatest asset… Their ears!!

  5. Joel Styzens

    Yes – and take it from someone who has had constant ringing and ear sensitivity problems for over 4 years: Get ear plugs AND wear them. *Hearing loss is cumulative* — each loud situation without the proper hearing protection can cause permanent damage and can potential create many problems that can affect your quality of life in many areas.

    OTHER OPTIONS FOR EAR-PLUGS and RESOURCES to learn more about protecting your ears and what can happen if you don’t: