The loudest sound
December 10, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Noise annoys: ear plug recommendations? Problem: I still need to hear something...

I'm slightly at my wit's end trying to find good quality ear plugs. My problem is this: I play guitar in a band and find that close proximity to a drum kit, especially on small stages and rehearsal rooms, is utterly terrible for my ears. I have mild tinnitus already but the slicing sound of a heavily struck cymbal seems to reach right into my skull - it's agony. So I wear ear plugs.

Up until now I've used Alpine MusicSafe Pros but they suck up so _much_ high end that I struggle to hear my guitar at all. I've also tried running a pair of over-the-ear headphones direct from my fx board so I'm shielded from everyone else and can hear my own playing. However, the raw sound from the board is pretty unpleasant.

My question: does anyone have any experience with ear plugs that genuinely just 'dial it down' a little bit? Are custom moulded plugs any good? Any recommendations would be hugely welcome.
posted by srednivashtar to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Noise cancelling headphones (I recommend Bose QuietComfort 15) block out much more low frequency noise than high frequency, due to the physics of destructive interference. When I wear mine with no music playing on an airplane, I can't hear the low drone of the engines, but I can hear someone talking to me perfectly.

However, I don't know if they'll block out enough noise for what you have in mind.
posted by nickhb at 6:22 AM on December 10, 2012

I love Hearos earplugs for any purpose. They make many different models that take care of any situation you could be in. They have a line for musicians that sounds exactly like what you are looking for.
posted by sgo at 6:40 AM on December 10, 2012

Surefire Ear Pro EP3 Sonic Defenders.

They're comfortable and they should work for what you want. I use the EP4s which block all noise, not just loud sounds.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:40 AM on December 10, 2012

I'm using Alpine as well but not the Musicsafe.

Why don't you ask the headphone/earbuds enthusiasts at ?
posted by Baud at 7:07 AM on December 10, 2012

I use ETY-plugs while at concerts. Yes, there's a small high end drop, but I don't find it to be too extreme.
posted by dobi at 7:12 AM on December 10, 2012

Seconding High Fidelity Hearos.
posted by scruss at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2012

The custom molded earplugs will change your life. They are by far the best investment I have made as a rock musician. Don't hesitate to do it, they are super comfortable and they make everything so much better on stage, and also when going to concerts.

I wouldn't worry about getting the full strength 25dB filters, go with the 15dB filters that are the standard. Everything will be quieter, but you can hear clearly.

The only people I wouldn't necessarily recommend them to are bass players, since I have noticed that they seem to remove more of the low bass than you might want when playing bass. Since the foam ones don't pull much bass out of the sound at all, those are sometimes better for bass players.

If you sing while playing, make sure your audiologist has you take them with an open mouth using a bite guard, or at least talk to them about it. I had to have mine molded a few times, because every time I opened my mouth, the seal would break. I ended up getting full shells for them, so they are quite visible from outside my ear, but I found that the standard size didn't work for me, because they would move around too much and come loose. If you don't have a lot of flex inside your ear when your mouth moves than that won't be an issue.

It seems silly to me that people will invest thousands of dollars into their guitar or drum rig, but won't spend $150 on saving their hearing. It is the best investment you can make.

If you aren't willing to go with a custom made plug, the ETY-plugs are better than regular earplugs. I never found them to be very comfortable, but was glad to have them when I did use them.

Whatever you do, don't play next to a drummer without earplugs anymore. Speaking as someone who has a degree of permanent hearing loss, the anguish you feel from not hearing anything clearly with earplugs is nothing like the anguish you will feel when you can't hear anything clearly for the rest of your life.
posted by markblasco at 7:47 AM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seconding the etymotics. Fantastic.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:43 PM on December 10, 2012

I really like Doc's Proplugs for singing and playing music. I find that most foam types feel like I'm underwater, especially if I have to sing, but the Proplugs cut the overall volume and dial down that harsh high end coming off the cymbals without muffling the rest of the sound. In fact, I sometimes find myself checking to make sure they are in because the music is still crystal clear.
posted by platinum at 1:22 AM on December 11, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for the fantastic answers. I'm in the UK and it seems the best custom fitted plugs come from Advanced Communication Systems, so I will look into them as well. Thanks again.
posted by srednivashtar at 2:32 AM on December 11, 2012

Custom molded are great. 2nding 15db.
posted by victory_laser at 8:44 PM on December 11, 2012

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