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
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.
Musician’s ear plugs are not just for musicians. They are also a popular hearing protection option for:
- 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. Traditionally, musicians have listened to large monitors on the stage in order to monitor their sound, or the sound of another band member. Unfortunately the practice is generally to turn these on stage monitors up to inappropriate levels. IEMS take the monitors off the stage and put them directly into the musician’s ear. When trained to use properly, musicians can reduce the volume of these monitors in there ears while still hearing clearly the music they are making. Some IEMs have built in microphones for the full audience experience.
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. These mold impressions should be performed by an audiologist with experience in deep ear impressions (beyond the second bend in the ear canal). 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 and IEMs. Some audiologists are not comfortable taking deep canal earmold impressions. Before visiting an Audiologist’s office, call to see if they can take earmold impressions past the second bend of the ear canal. Our own Dr. Bartlett is a “Gold Circle” Audiologist with Sensaphonics, which indicates she is capable of taking earmold impressions that work for custom earmolds and IEMs.