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 don’t attenuate evenly—musicians typically want a more even frequency response from their earplugs. Foam or off the shelf earplugs usually attenuate the highs more than the lows and this doesn’t sound good to the musician.
Most musicians need specialized protection. This means protection across all frequencies with more emphasis on the low-to-mid frequencies. Musician plugs generally attenuate evenly across frequencies but this may vary by type of instrument they play and their location to other musicians.
Musician's earplugs come in both custom and non-custom options. Over-the-counter musician earplugs can reduce sound levels by approximately 20 dB, enough to reduce harmful sound without distorting speech or music.
Custom-made earplugs fit deeply in order 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. This style of deep-fit earmolds are popular with musicians because of the quality of sound they allow them to hear while practicing and performing.
Musician's earplugs provide protection for:
- Musicians and music teachers
- Sound crews
- Recording engineers
- 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, there is still the option of universal fit musician monitors. 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 an ear impression) to fit your unique ear shape by your hearing healthcare provider.
The ear impression that is used to make the earmold or in-ear monitor is the most important part of the process in getting a good custom fit. The quality of the ear impression material and technique directly impacts the sound quality, sound isolation and comfort that are achieved with the earmold.
Because this part of the process is so crucial, it's important that you hire someone who is experienced and trained in making impressions for high-quality musicians earplugs. Most hearing healthcare providers are trained in this process and know the importance of a good fit.
Speak with your hearing healthcare provider about his or her experience in custom fitting patients with musician's earplugs and IEMs and about your options for high-quality occupational hearing protection.