The 10 Best Earplugs For Musicians
Music: The Universal Language
There aren't a whole lot of things that almost every human being alive can experience together on some level. Emotionally powerful parts of life like food, family, spirituality, and community shape who we are as people, and art helps to enrich all those aspects of our existence, and more.
Among the most universal media, music is a significant part of almost every culture on the planet. The differences in all the styles are every bit as great as the differences between individual people. And one of the most beautiful parts about music is that anyone can make it, and it's even good for your health. An audience isn't even necessary; all it takes is an artist, and the sounds can flow. This accessibility is part of why this is one of the important forms of art today; it's inextricably linked to countless emotions and experiences in both our individual and collective minds.
Music is, of course, auditory, and its enjoyability depends very much on our ability to hear it. Singing in the shower would be nothing special if it weren't for the remarkably reflective acoustics of bathroom tile, coupled with the dynamic attenuation of falling water; it's the perfect storm for belting your best Taylor Swift impression into your natural sea sponge loofah. So, while all it takes is a musician for creative expression to really shine, it often helps quite a bit if that person can hear well. Unfortunately, having sensitive and precise hearing generally runs counter to the very nature of the professional industry, especially if an artist is trying to make a real living.
The Dangers Of Making So Much Magic
Everyone knows that standing next to a jet engine will hurt the ear drums. And when a fan leaves the front row of a concert, they'll usually notice their ears ringing. This trauma is dangerous to our aural health, and we should take every precaution to avoid it. After all, the cochlea is connected to the brain via a shorter pathway than any other organ, and it's definitely prudent to take good care of the gray matter.
But it's the daily assault on the inner ear that really does the damage; even hairdryers, for example, result in noticeable hearing loss after constant daily use. And when your career involves making just exactly the right sounds at the the perfect times, you'll be practicing those moves over and over again, for far longer than you'll ever be performing them. And it doesn't take overdriven thrash metal to cause long-term stress; the human head simply hasn't evolved to handle the incredible amount of vibrations that our advanced, electrified technology pumps through it. One of the most painful offshoots of permanent damage is an artist experiencing further harm to the ears or even their voice, as they strain to produce more volume and overcome the hearing loss.
Among the most sedulously avoided effects, tinnitus is a nearly debilitating condition that's quite the cruel mistress. Rather than simply lowering the volume and clarity of what we hear, this unfortunate disease actually applies a layer of sometimes thin, sometimes piercing, and almost always infuriatingly annoying ringing in the ear of the chronic sonic artist. This auditory interference, and the physical imbalance it can actually cause, make dancing around on stage trying to hear the monitors a near impossibility. And it can only be prevented by paying close attention to ear health from the very beginning of a musician's career.
Hang It In Your Ear (By The Noblemen 4)
Even those who aspire to write like Beethoven probably aren't excited about taking in the notes solely by feeling, through the floor, the vibrations of a legless piano. And no one wants to be the subject of the above-mentioned 1967 single, wherein a normally upbeat blues rocker laments that his condition now requires him to wear not one, but two of those dreaded hearing aids.
Also, no, you can't just turn it down. That's simply ludicrous, and few serious musicians would suggest it.
Instead, the ear plug comes to the rescue. The simplest, of course, are well-known from their ability to block out early risers, loud neighbors, and inconvenient morning construction when we're trying to sleep. These dirt-cheap foam pieces fit to form any ear, and are single-use-only, so they're sure to be generally clean. But the average musician (as well as the bad one, and the talented one) usually likes to accurately hear the tunes they're playing. In fact, many artists are extremely picky about this monitoring quality, and you might even call some obsessive. For purists and perfectionists, balling up a piece of rubber and stuffing it in there is not sufficient for a legitimate performance.
Thankfully, technology has picked up the ball with a wide range of options more advanced than a simple foam stopper (though many musicians do use those cheap ones). Rather than blocking noise across the entire spectrum, a quality set of ear plugs will attenuate specific portions of the mid- and upper-range frequencies that tend to penetrate and overwork ear drums the most. To be clear, these may not be perfect for every user, and this is one category where personal preference is of prime importance. It might take a couple different models before you locate the most comfortable and effective one to nestle perfectly between your uniquely shaped tragus and external meatus. The right pair will let you hear the noise coming from your instrument while limiting distortion and dulling of important frequencies, and preventing overexposure that comes from the daily hard work involved in making great music.