Emily stressed: \"Keep taking and using earplugs. Take a spare pair of earplugs too, in case you lose one or both. And importantly, if you feel uncomfortable you can always walk away. No live event is more important than your hearing. Never be afraid to leave. We get so many people telling us, 'If only I had walked away.' Don't let that be you.\"
The Vibes Hi-Fidelity earplugs focus on reducing (attenuating) volume, employing special filters to fine-tune certain damaging frequencies. Overall noise is reduced, but without muffling the sound too badly. If you're used to using cheap foam options, you'll know what we mean by 'muffled'. We didn't find the muffling to be too distracting with these earplugs.
I don't think they would give you years of live music and festival outings without falling apart, but as an entry point into hearing protection at a sensible cost, the Eargrace High Fidelity earplugs are very easy to recommend.
Sitting a step above the cheap and cheerful models, yet not quite in the high end, comes the EarLabs dBud earplugs. I really like the combination of both foam and silicone buds in a range of sizes, which meant I was able to easily find a perfect fit.
As a very low-end option, the Neutron Soft Foam Ear Plugs could be handy to keep in the car for use in emergencies. A jar contains 60 pairs, and each offers a highly respectable 38dB of protection from external noise. They come with a keychain travel case which can be popped in your pocket and keeps the earplugs clean and debris free.
Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach like most earplugs, like the name suggests, custom earplugs mould themselves snuggly into the shape of your ear canals to provide a comfortable fit and keep unwanted noise levels out.
Paul added: The key here is to ensure your hearing is protected. There are now special flat-response musicians earplugs, which reduce the level of the music entering the ear but maintain the fidelity by attenuating all frequencies to the same level. Most standard earplugs attenuate more high frequencies, which can result in a dullness of sound and make speech difficult to understand. The flat response plugs simply reduce the volume without affecting the sound quality.
I enlisted the help of three Wirecutter staffers to test earplugs, including Brent Butterworth, who has decades of experience as an AV reviewer and is a regular jazz performer. Brent also provided measurement assistance (detailed below).
For our tests, we performed both subjective and objective assessments. First I assembled a four-person panel (including Brent Butterworth and myself) that covered a range of ear sizes: One panelist generally finds that small tips fit her best, another prefers medium, Brent prefers XL, and I prefer large. Over the course of several weeks, we wore the earplugs during a variety of activities, including trips to loud bars, music rehearsals and performances, group exercise classes, and concerts.
As the resident audio experts, Brent and I also spent some time listening to music we know very well at maximum volume through over-ear headphones while wearing the earplugs. This process enabled us to separate out the specific sonic effect of each earplug and removed variables such as the EQ of speakers used at a club or the soundboard settings. Since we knew these tracks in detail, we could suss out the differences much more clearly.
In addition to doing the hands-on testing, we wanted to gauge the attenuation of each earplug in an objective way that took the human element out of the process. To measure the performance of the earplugs, we used the same technique commonly used to measure the performance of noise-cancelling headphones. Brent used the same device he uses for almost all of his headphone measurements: a GRAS 43AG ear and cheek simulator, equipped with a KB5000 simulated pinna, which represents an average human earlobe shape. A test microphone inside the ear and cheek simulator picks up whatever sound comes into the ear.
These earmuffs are rated to 27 dB and meet ANSI requirements, so they will work not only at concerts but also around lawn mowers, sporting events, fireworks, car engines, or any sound your child dislikes. At the moment, my preschooler is partial to putting them on when I run the carpet cleaner or blender. These earmuffs are also a fantastic option for kids who need some auditory sensory reduction to help them focus or to calm their bodies in stressful situations.
Earplugs usually have a listed noise reduction rating (NRR), which is a government-standardized number that is supposed to indicate, in decibels (dB), how much attenuation (that is, reduction) one might expect from a given pair of earplugs. The NRR represents an average of perceived noise reduction over eight frequency bands ranging from 125 Hz to 8 kHz; the tests are conducted in a lab setting, using trained listeners who are fitted with earplugs by proctors. A newer test, called SNR, follows the same process except the test subjects fit the earplugs into their ears themselves.
To give you an idea of the sound-quality difference that musician earplugs make compared with foam plugs, Fligor was kind enough to supply us with listening samples he made using the Hearing Loss and Prosthesis Simulator (HeLPS) by Sensimetrics.
Etymotic has put a lot of research into its filters and also makes some of the filters used in custom earplugs, so we had high hopes for the ER20XS Universal Fit Earplugs. But the sound was muffled, the tips were difficult to interchange, the tree-shaped tips were uncomfortable, and the foam gradually expanded and pushed the earplugs out of our ears. Plus, the removal pull tabs are made of a stiff plastic that annoyed one panelist so much that they removed the tabs completely.
Why it made the cut: These affordable silicone earplugs feel great in your ears and offer balanced attenuation, for a more natural sound profile usually only available in expensive models.
The best earplugs are designed to let music and voices through, while filtering out background noise. That way, you still hear the singer or track, without say, being distracted by conversation around you.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that is enough to cause immediate damage to the ears when endured for a long period of time. So, if you are an avid musician or a frequent concert-goer who also cares about safety, wearing earplugs is a must.
To start, here are the key factors you need to know to be able to enjoy concerts with earplugs on safely:Noise Reduction RatingNoise Reduction RatingA Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a number given to earplugs and other hearing protection devices (HPDs) to tell consumers how well the product reduces volume.
Given these changing cultural sensibilities, modern earplugs now come in various colors and levels of shininess. Like earrings, they can complement an entire look or take on an eclectic look of their own.
Lastly, some people want earplugs to be practically invisible. This can be for a variety of reasons, from a fashion perspective to a perceived stigma of wearing earplugs in public. The invisible aesthetic can be acquired by picking earplugs made of transparent materials and smaller design.
You can use your earplugs for as long as they remain functional. This will depend on what material they are made of, with silicone and other similar materials lasting considerably longer than less durable materials, such as foam.
The linear filter creates an even balance of sound coming through the earplugs, no matter what part of the spectrum that sound is from. Where some earplugs will mute dull high-pitched shrieks or deep bass beats, this filter will keep them intact relative to other sounds. In other words, you can expect even performance across the sound spectrum.
However, one takeaway is that they have mixed performance in the deeper pitches. Interestingly enough, they work quite aggressively on most deep sounds, but not the deepest ones. This is most noticeable in concerts and songs that rely heavily on bass notes to carry the music, which may sound strange or distorted.
The Hearprotek High Fidelity Concert Ear Plugs provide high protection, 20 dB NRR, without costing much. Designed to quieten noise but not eliminate hearing altogether, they are perfect for concerts when budget matters.
The curved design keeps them quite comfortable. A wide, flat stem on the outside of the earplugs makes removal easy, even for those with wide fingers. Since the earplugs are transparent and entirely curved to fit up next to the sides of your ears, they are very discrete.
While many earplugs have parts that are transparent, the inner filter parts are usually opaque or have a darker color. Not so with the EarDial HiFi earplugs, which are transparent throughout. Everything from the stem to the earwax protection valve in the deepest parts of your ear are made with soft, hypoallergenic silicone.
One of Bob Boilen's requests at the Tiny Desk is that no musician play louder than the singers can project without amplification, which has the effect of equalizing audience and performers, creating an intimate and balanced sound that's never too loud in the room. But when sound engineers need to reinforce venues bigger than an office, it's impossible to balance the sound in every area of the room. If you prefer to be close to the stage, you'll inevitably be a lot closer to the loudspeakers, where volume levels can become uncomfortably loud.
I've compiled a list of my favorite earplugs which are specifically engineered for music. Unlike the brightly colored, disposable foam earplugs you find in bulk at the drugstore or behind the bar of the venue, these reusable options turn down frequencies more evenly. The result is that, rather than blocking out all sound indiscriminately, they use filters with a nearly flat frequency response, which has the effect of turning down a volume dial rather than muting the a