Hearing Damage and Tinnitus

If you listen to live music without earplugs then you will almost certainly be exposing your hearing to a decibel level that is above the range deemed safe for listening and you will be damaging your hearing.

Hearing loss due to frequent and prolonged exposure to live music is an ever increasing problem and can be prevented. This review describes some of the best earplugs to use at Concerts and Festivals, and also other types of earplugs that are available for different purposes.

A few years ago I started to notice a humming noise in my ears, and my hearing also wasn’t as good as it used to be. Knowing that I attended lots of concerts and festivals and would have ‘ringing’ in my ears the next day, it became clear that I had developed Tinnitus.

Tinnitus is where exposure to loud noises over a period of time causes damage to the delicate ear structures causing hearing loss and a constant noise in your ears.

Tinnitus can be prevented if you protect your ears from loud noise with earplugs. It doesn’t mean you have to block out sound and ruin the live concert experience as some earplugs can just filter the high pitch sounds that cause the damage.

Graph showing hearing loss risk limits
This chart shows that rock concert decibel levels mean you are at risk of hearing loss

Purchasing Ear Plugs

I have found that the best earplugs to suit my needs are the ER-20 High-Fidelity Earplugs which filter the high decibels and so still allow you to hear live music loudly but at a safe level.

I now wear my earplugs at all concerts and festivals. I can tell how well they work as if I remove them while a bands are playing I notice how loud and distorted the unfiltered sound is. Without the earplugs I would normally just get used to that sound during the evening but it would be damaging my ears.

I thoroughly recommend you invest in some noise cancelling earplugs for concerts and festivals to avoid developing tinnitus. Even if your hearing is fine now, it will gradually deteriorate and there is no cure.

ER-20 High-Fidelity Noise Cancelling Earplugs

ER-20 High-Fidelity Earplugs slot into the ear, and once in place, you just forget they are there. By filtering the high decibels they make listening to loud music much more enjoyable and it’s noticeable how much clearer the vocals and individual instruments are and everything is far more audible.

Many of the ER-20 Earplugs cost around ¬£15-¬£20 which is insignificant compared to avoiding hearing loss. Some have optional cord attachments to avoid losing them (I’ve never had any fall out) and most come in a small case or pouch. They also come in different sizes.

If you look after your ER-20 Earplugs and keep them clean they should last a very long time. They will not only end up being very good value for money but will allow you to listen to live music clearly, and without damaging your hearing.

ER-20 Noise cancelling ear plugs. Ideal for concerts and festivals
ER-20 High-Fidelity Noise Filtering Earplugs for Concerts and Festivals

Best Earplugs for Musicians & Drummers

If you are a musician you can and should wear ER-20 High-Fidelity Earplugs when practising, rehearsing or playing live to protect your hearing. As a musician, you will likely be exposing your hearing to prolonged loud noise on regular occasions and it is essential you protect your hearing before it gets damaged.

As mentioned previously, these earplugs filter the high decibels without any loss to quality so are ideal for musicians. Drummers especially should use them as unlike guitar amps, you can’t turn down the volume of drums or cymbals.

Drummer wearing earplugs

Other Types of Noise Cancelling Earplugs

You can also use Foam Earplugs like the ones below, however the distinction here is that rather than filtering the high decibels, they simply muffle the sound and block it from entering the ear so you will not get the quality of sound provided by ER-20’s.

Foam earplugs can be a bit tricky to place in the ear as they do not compress very much and so have to be pushed in the ear quite tightly.

Sponge noise cancelling ear plugs
Foam Earplugs. They will protect your hearing but they block noise rather than filter it

You can get some very Cheap Disposable Sponge Earplugs that they also tend to give away for free at festivals. These are better than nothing but are really designed to help you sleep in a noisy environment rather than protect your ears from high decibels. So they are ideal when camping at a festival when you want to get some sleep, but not great for listening to live music at concerts or festivals.

To use them you have to squeeze the earplug so it reduces in size and then push it into your ear. It then quickly expands and sits comfortably in the ear. I have found that they do manage to stay in your ears overnight so are quite practical.

Cheap noise cancelling ear plugs
Cheap earplugs. Not really designed for filtering very loud noise but ideal to help you sleep at festivals

You can also get Custom Earplugs that can be moulded to the shape of the inner ear and so will fit well. Custom earplugs are likely to be made of either solid silicone or alternatively will be the more expensive high-fidelity earplugs. The high-fidelity custom earplugs filter noise while the silicone ones act similar to sponge earplugs and simply block the sound.

Custom noise cancelling ear plugs

Custom Earplugs that you can mould to the shape of your ear. They come as noise reducing or as noise filtering which allow for better sound quality

Tip! Regularly wash your earplugs to keep them clean and hygienic.

To summarise, there are various types of earplugs available and if you want to protect your hearing when listening to live music it is in your best interests to buy a pair that will do this adequately such as the ER-20 High- Fidelity Earplugs or Custom High Fidelity-Earplugs. If you compromise, then you are putting your long term hearing at risk.

In addition, if you want some earplugs that will simply dampen surrounding sound so you can get to sleep then Foam or Sponge Earplugs are cheap and work well.

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