Jacqueline Stagg quote and image - blog feature

Musicians Earplugs: How Do They Work?

07/14/2021 | Hearing Loss, Patient Resources, Tinnitus

Believe it or not, hearing loss has had a profound impact on the entire music industry. Neil Young switched to a mellow, more laid-back sound after his first album due to harsh music aggravating his tinnitus.

Danny Elfman gave up touring with his band Oingo Boingo due to hearing loss. Likewise, Thomas Bangalter — one-half of the uber-popular Daft Punk duo — has entirely quit performing at smaller venues to preserve his hearing.

According to NIDCH, listening to 85 decibels for an hour or more can cause noise-induced hearing loss. The average rock concert is 115 decibels, which is a mere 10 decibels below the pain threshold.

But it doesn’t take a rock-and-roll concert to cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Acoustic guitars are played at an average of 87 decibels. Flutes are 85 – 110 decibels. And French horns are over 90 decibels.

Many musicians rely on musicians’ earplugs to help combat noise-induced hearing loss caused by playing instruments regularly.

But what are musicians’ earplugs? And what makes them different than standard earplugs? We know one thing for sure, Danny Elfman and the many others who have unfortunately experienced hearing loss would have definitely grabbed a pair would they have known what was to come!

What Are Musicians’ Earplugs?

As a musician, you have special needs. For example, you need earplugs that block out harsh sounds while still allowing you to hear the music you’re performing. Flexibility is also a significant concern.

Playing a concert is much different from playing in your basement, and you need earplugs capable of performing unique sound situations based on your location, instrument, and equipment.

Musicians’ earplugs are custom-made specifically for musicians. Unfortunately, traditional earplugs present three primary problems for musicians:

  • Occlusion: If you’ve ever used earplugs, you’ve probably noticed occlusion. It’s a natural consequence of some hearing aids and earplugs, and it happens when an earplug covers the outer portion of the ear canal. Occlusion makes your voice sound “funny” or “too loud,” and it can make instruments, chewing, and any sounds that you hear “internally” sound distorted, louder, or muffled.
  • Attenuation: As a musician, earplugs are a balancing act. You still need to be able to hear your instruments, listen to music, and perform well. But it would be best if you also had protection against hearing loss. Standard earplugs often offer too much attenuation (i.e., reduction of decibel volume). You need custom earplugs that block out the perfect amount of sound. Too much attenuation makes it challenging to hear the subtler notes of your instruments. Too little attenuation can lead to hearing damage. You want to be able to hear every rich note of your instrument, but you want to hear those notes as quieter — not unevenly distorted.
  • Variability: A well-crafted set of musicians’ earplugs have multiple decibel attenuators. This allows you to adjust your earplugs to fit your unique needs. So, you can adjust your earplugs to a higher attenuation to suit loud concerts and group settings, and you can reduce that attenuation to suit acoustic environments, individual practice sessions, and quieter concert settings.

Do You Need Musicians Earplugs?

Don’t let hearing loss destroy your love and passion for music. Musician earplugs give you the versatility, precision, and occlusion reduction you need to practice, perform, and engage with music lovers without risking permanent hearing damage.

These earplugs make a great addition to in-ear monitors, and they’re perfect for any musician at any age.

Contact us to learn more about musician earplugs or how we can help you enjoy the instruments you love while keeping the hearing you need.

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Jacqueline Stagg HIS, AUDA

Jacqueline joined the staff at Duncan Hearing Healthcare in 2011. She is a licensed hearing instrument specialist and audiologist assistant in Massachusetts. Jacqueline is a 2005 graduate of Bridgewater State College with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. She also fulfilled her requirements through the communication disorders program at Bridgewater State College to be licensed as an audiologist assistant in 2008.

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