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 ear plugs 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 very unclear and unnatural to listen to. 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. What they need is mid- to low-frequency protection. This can be accomplished through ear plugs that are specifically designed for musicians.
Musician’s ear plugs come in both custom and non-custom options. Ready-fit musician ear plugs can reduce sound levels by approximately 20 dB, enough to reduce harmful sound without distorting speech or music.
These type of ear plugs 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 musicians own voice that is sometimes experienced with lower quality ear plugs. These type of deep-fit earmolds are popular with musicians because of the quality of sound they allow them to hear while practicing and performing.
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 a mold) to fit your unique ear shape, usually by an audiologist or hearing specialist.
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 is 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 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 musician’s ear plugs and IEMs and about your options for high-quality occupational hearing protection.