If you’re a musician making a living playing an instrument or using your voice, congratulations! A music career is rewarding, exciting and fun! There is one small problem however that, while preventable, many musicians still fail to address; hearing damage.
The fact is, thousands of musicians have ignored the health risks associated with being exposed to continuous, extremely loud music, playing for years and even decades without proper ear protection. Brian Johnson of AC/DC is a prime example, being forced to give up touring because of the damage done to his ears over years of playing with no protection.
Scientifically speaking, loud noise, including music will degrade your hearing ability slowly but surely, causing tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Even worse, once your ears are damaged and your hearing impaired, there’s no cure to get it back.
What that means is that, if you’re a musician looking to sing (or play) for your supper as a career, finding a well-made, comfortable set of earplugs is imperative. (Also, if you’re an avid concertgoer, you need earplugs too!)
To that end, we’ve put together a list of the Top 5 earplugs for musicians, below, that will help you, as well as 3 Key Features that they must have in order to provide the best protection for one of your most precious 5 senses, your hearing.
The main reason to purchase a set of earplugs is to reduce the amount of noise that reaches your inner-ear and prevent damage. This amount changes from model to model and should be based on the type and location of music you’re playing.
Playing hard rock or heavy metal at a nightclub? Then you’ll want earplugs that substantially lower the volume coming through. On the other hand, if you’re jazzing it up with a small group of friends in your garage, earplugs that let more volume through should be fine.
Note that the average sound reduction on most brands of earplugs falls between 15 to 30 dBs and, with this in mind, choose the best earplugs for your musical situation.
Truth is, most musicians don’t use earplugs because, well, they ruin the music. It’s tough to know if something you’re playing sounds ‘right’ if you can’t hear it well and, if you have a low-quality set of earplugs, it can turn a joyous experience into something just plain awful.
The good news is that there are several earplug models (as you’ll see below) that allow you to protect your ears but still hear your music well, providing a flat response that attenuates equally all the frequencies coming through. In short, they give you the ability to turn down the volume but still hear the musical nuances, protecting your ears while the music shines through.
Let’s be honest, if the earplugs in your ear are causing you pain and discomfort, you’re going to take them out, defeating their purpose immediately. That’s why any pair of earplugs you buy must fit well and provide a good seal inside your ear.
Knowing this, it’s a good idea to try on several models of earplugs so that you purchase a set that provides a good seal, reduces noise sufficiently, provides excellent sound quality and feels good when worn for hours, days or weeks at a time.
A highly acclaimed audio company, Etymotic is known as one of the best earplug makers in the industry, and one of their standouts is the ER20xs.
Firstly, their flat response is excellent, allowing all frequency ranges to come through without lowering any one more than another. Wearing them allows you to turn down the volume without shutting out the true sound. Even better, they feel like there’s almost nothing in your ears.
The ER20xs also does a very good job of blocking volume at 20 dBs, enough for a raucous band rehearsal or even a concert. They provide plenty of ear protection but allow you to still hear the music well.
One drawback the ER20xs does have, however, is that they only come in sizes regular and large so, if you’ve got a particularly small set of ears, they may not be the best fit for you.
At 31 dbs of volume reduction, the DeciBullz earplugs take the volume way down, even at the loudest of concerts. One of the reasons they’re so good at this is that, unlike other models, DeciBullz can be self-customized to fit your ears perfectly.
To do this you simply pour or dunk them in very hot water for a few seconds, which makes them softer and more pliable. While hot (but not too hot) you then place them in your ears, where they’ll mold to them like a cat molds to your lap.
Voila! You now have earplugs that fit your ears perfectly although, truth be told, they do get a little harder once cooled and so might not conform to your comfort level. Plus, while better than most average plugs for hearing protection, the DeciBullz aren’t exactly the king of sound quality.
In any case, if sheer volume reducing power is your goal, the DeciBullz fit the bill to a ‘T’.
With 2 filters and an impressive 29 dBs of sound reduction, the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs are the most well-rounded, and affordable, earplugs we’ve reviewed.
They come in 2 sizes so you can pick the size that fits you best, deliver a relatively flat response so you can still hear all your music in high-def, and they’re excellent concert earplugs as well, letting great sound in while keeping your ears safe and sound (no pun intended).
Another bonus of the LiveMusic HearSafe plugs is that, since they’re made from non-toxic, hypoallergenic silicone, most users won’t have any type of allergic reaction to them. In other words, they won’t itch while you twitch (to the music).
All of this and a great price make the LiveMusic HearSafe earplugs our pick for best all-around.
Created using a softer, more malleable material, the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs collapse inward upon insertion, expanding into your ear canal to give you a snug, comfortable fit. They do this using a special insertion tool that, while a bit awkward, allows you to place them deeper than most other models, creating an excellent seal that lowers sound leakage considerably.
The main difference between the Alpine MusicSafe Classic Earplugs and the Pro Earplugs is that the Classic comes with 2 sets of filters while the Pro comes with 3 sets. The Classic attenuates up to 22 dBs of volume while, with 3 filters, the Pro attenuates up to 27 dBs, both of which give you much more control over the amount of sound that gets into your ears.
On the downside, both Classic and Pro models tend to cut high and low ranges more than mid, giving the impression of a louder midrange, something many musicians find annoying.
But if fit is your most pressing concern the Alpine MusicSafe Classic and Pro Earplugs are a great choice.
Above you’ll find 4 sets of earplugs that, as you’ve seen, are very high quality and deliver excellent hearing protection. That being said, if protecting your ears like Fort Knox while getting the ultimate in sound is your goal, a pair of Custom Made Earplugs is what you need.
To get them means seeing an audiologist, simply because they are the only people capable of creating the ear molds needed to get custom earplugs made. It also means your earplugs will cost upwards of $350.00, give or take a few bucks, so it’s a relatively large investment.
That investment, however, will deliver protection and audio quality beyond most off-the-rack earplugs, because the seal will be perfect. With no leakage you’ll get true high-definition, with minimal change to the music that’s entering your ear plus customizable filters that allow you to raise or lower volume to your perfect level.
If you’re a working musician, or you want to get the best concert experience while making sure your ears stay healthy, custom earplugs are your best choice, even if they are a little bit pricey. To get them, we suggest Googling ‘audiologist’ and seeing one close to your location.
Enjoy your music longer by protecting your ears with one of these excellent earplugs
Music, whether playing it yourself or simply listening, is one of life’s greatest joys. To make sure you can listen as many years as possible, do your ears a favor and purchase one of the best earplugs for musicians, above.
With any of them in your ears you’ll get the protection you need and still be able to hear all of that wonderful, soul-soothing sound, so pick up a pair today!