Ear plugs for a Metal Concert?
February 19, 2019 3:50 PM   Subscribe

How do i protect my hearing for a Metal concert while preserving the quality? I would normally wear Etymotic ER20 earplugs to a concert, but metal is going to be that much louder i assume - I haven't been to a metal show before - and would like something with more hearing protection.

In an ideal world etymotic would have a stronger er25/30/etc version that would preserve the musical quality and offer even more protection than the ER20's. Are there stronger versions from other manufacturers? Should i just bring a variety of foam / silicone macks / ety's earplugs and see which works best? Other loud concert hearing protection advice?
posted by TheAdamist to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
you're getting 20dB from the Etymotic ER20s. According to the internet the most you will get from earplugs (as in, just earplugs, not trying to be balanced) is 31-33dB.

I would give regular foam earplugs a go and do an A/B test with the etymotics. I used the regular foam ones at concerts in my youth, and my ear got used to their non-linear attenuation (high frequencies get smacked down more) fairly quickly.
posted by zippy at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2019

They make earplugs that go up to 35 decibels of reduction so those are probably your best bet. Really loud concerts can go up to 100 decibels, so it's not like you won't hear what's going on. As a person who has frequented loud, bassy concerts for many years, as long as you don't stand with your ear next to the speakers you'll be fine.
posted by ananci at 4:39 PM on February 19, 2019

I don't think your assumption of metal being significantly louder is justified. It's not 1978, bands in all genres are more worried about sounding good than being the loudest these days. Those earplugs should be fine as long as you don't have your face on a speaker.
posted by COD at 5:06 PM on February 19, 2019 [6 favorites]

Assuming your other concert experiences are popular music genres -- ie hip hop or rock or pop or whatever they call dancy electronic stuff these days -- and not the symphony, a metal show probably won't be much louder. I wear the generic foam earplugs, which it seems provide more noise attenuation than the ER20s to metal concerts and really don't experience much of a loss in sound quality at all.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:33 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

As other folks have said, unless you're going to really quiet concerts regularly a "metal" concert won't be louder than most concerts. If possible, find a seat / position where you're not super-close to the sound system and pop those in before the band starts, and you should be fine. I have a pair of "Hearos" that only promise filtering up to 12dB and they seem to protect my ears just fine.
posted by jzb at 7:28 PM on February 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have been wearing Etymotic ER15 professional earplugs to rock shows for 30 years -- over a thousand bands, and most of them up reeeally close. That 15 dB of attenuation (volume reduction) was perfect for me to protect my hearing but still enjoy the show. Rock shows (including "metal") really aren't THAT loud, unless you're standing right in front of a PA speaker.

I recently damaged my hearing due to exposure to extremely loud* sound levels (not music!), now have permanent ringing in one ear, and have discovered that loud music is now a little more uncomfortable. So I have increased the attentuation to 25 dB, the next step up offered by Etymotic. I wish they offered 20 dB.

The earplugs you have, if they're like mine, consist of a custom molded soft plastic part that fits in your ear canal, and an interchangeable hard plastic disc that fits into it. Your current 20 dB performance is a characteristic of that replaceable disc. Get a higher-attenuation disc.

(I actually haven't gotten the 25 dB discs from Etymotic yet. They're ordering system is troublesome, and I keep forgetting to call during their business hours to straighten it out.)

* It was a drag race, with top fuel dragsters. Take hearing protection seriously at those events, folks. Top fuel (and funny car) dragsters are louder than anything you will have ever ever experienced, definitely louder than a rock concert. On each run, for the one second that they were passing by and closest to me, I actually felt a reptilian response kick in, a lower brain function that was telling me "oh shit, I'm about to die". Then that feeling passed, and there was nothing but exhilaration. Until a couple days later when I realize the ringing wasn't going away.
posted by intermod at 7:58 PM on February 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Wear your nice Ety ER20 earplugs. From what I've seen, it would be difficult to do better.

I don't go to many concerts. Due to my ignorance of venue and an unfortunate draw in the ticket lottery, I ended up sitting right in front of a speaker stack at the last concert I went to. Changing seats was not an option. It was the loudest place I've ever been, certainly for the longest duration. That includes various auto races (a Formula 1 race, Indy, NASCAR, and drag races), a Space Shuttle launch, and any other concert I've attended. It was so loud that my hearing was literally cutting out if I adjusted or removed an earplug.

Because I'd ended up using my ER noise isolating earphones as hearing protection at a previous concert due to lack of preparation, and I want my keep my hearing, this time I brought a bunch of the soft orange foam earplugs and a pair of Ety-plugs (non-custom).

The Ety-plugs were excellent, the music sounded amazing, and I'm reasonably sure that I didn't suffer any further damage. The foam ones sucked. They were not nearly as comfortable, not as effective as the Ety-plugs, and distorted the music horribly. I gave all of my spares to some people seated near me who hadn't thought about hearing protection.
posted by monopas at 1:24 AM on February 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to spend real money, Etymotic does have a pair that goes up to 25 dB, and specifically preserves musical quality – the Musician's Earplugs. I think these are the same ones that intermod is talking about. They are awesome, and worth the money if you go to a lot of shows.

I've been using them for 15 years now. The seal from the custom fit seems to make a difference in how well it keeps noise out, so you might find even a 15dB one is adequate.
posted by apjanke at 1:14 AM on February 27, 2019

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