Musicians have unique needs when it comes to hearing protection. They need to protect their hearing, but they also need to be able to hear their own music clearly (as well as hear other musicians’ music and voices) while performing.
Conventional store-bought earplugs are great at providing hearing protection. However, they often provide too much protection for musicians, muffling speech and sound in the process. They make music and voices sound very unclear and unnatural. While conventional hearing protection can reduce very high frequencies, this amount of hearing protection is typically not needed for musicians.
Most musicians do not need maximum protection. Instead, they need mid- to low-frequency protection. This can be accomplished through ear plugs that are specifically designed for musicians.
Musicians’ earplugs come in both custom and non-custom options. Ready-fit musician earplugs can reduce sound levels by approximately 20 dB, enough to reduce harmful sound without distorting speech or music.
These types of earplugs are deep in order to allow the earmold to seal within the bony portion of the ear canal. This deep fit reduces what is known as occlusion: a hollow or boomy sound in the musician’s own voice that is sometimes experienced with lower quality earplugs. These types of deep-fit earmolds are popular with musicians because of the quality of sound they allow musicians to hear while practicing and performing.
Musicians’ Earplugs Are Not Just for Musicians
They are also a popular hearing protection option for the following types of people:
- Sound crews
- Recording engineers
- Band teachers
- Airline personnel
- Athletic coaches
- NFL football players
- Medical professionals
- Construction workers
- Industrial workers
- Truck drivers
In-Ear Musician Monitors
For musicians who perform for large audiences, in-ear musician monitors (IEMs) are the current standard in musician technology. They allow the musician to clearly hear the music they are making, as the audience would hear it, while still protecting the musician’s ears from extremely loud amplification systems and audiences.
IEMs work best if they are custom molded to fit each musician’s ears personally. However, universal-fit musician monitors are also available. Universal IEMs typically come with interchangeable foam or silicone tips to allow for a semi-custom fit.
Both earmolds and IEMs can be custom made (using a mold) to fit your unique ear shape, usually by an audiologist or hearing specialist. The ear impression that is used to make the custom-fit earmold or in-ear monitor is the most important part of the process. The quality of the ear impression material and technique directly impacts the sound quality, sound isolation, and comfort that is achieved with the earmold. Because this part of the process is so crucial, it is important that you hire someone who is experienced and trained in making impressions for high-quality musicians’ earplugs. Most audiologists are trained in this process and know the importance of a good fit.
Speak with your audiologist about his or her experience in custom fitting patients with musicians’ earplugs and IEMs and about your options for high-quality occupational hearing protection.