The 10 Best Earplugs For Musicians
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in April of 2017. Whether you perform regularly in front of thousands of fans or simply enjoy jamming with your garage band, protecting your hearing should always be a high priority. These well-engineered earplugs filter harmful, excessive noise while letting instruments and vocals through with relative clarity, and using them is the most effective and comfortable way to keep your ears safe from long-term damage. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 28, 2020:
It is something of a cruel irony that in an industry where hearing is of the utmost importance, those who create music are persistently exposed to potentially harmful sound levels. With this in mind, we decided to add the EarDial HiFi to our list in this latest review, as they come with a native app that alerts you to volume levels that are sustained and which could damage your ears. These are also praised for the subtlety of their design, whereby their transparent silicone body is made to blend with the skin tone of the user, thus becoming almost unnoticeable.
Secondly, we added the Earos One high up the ranking, as, while they are a relatively new product, they are starting to make waves in the industry. This is largely due to the fact that the company joined forces with the director of the MIT Acoustics and Vibratory Laboratory, with the intention of producing a set of filters that recreate the vibrations of the inner ear, while attenuating outside noise by significant levels. These are the result of their efforts, and by most accounts, they work extremely well.
June 25, 2019:
As luck would have it, I sat down to type up this Editor's Note shortly before I headed out to a jam session at a nearby blues bar, which means I'll actually remember to take my earplugs with me this time. Because, remember, it doesn't matter how nice your earplugs are if you don't carry them on you and wear them. As a trumpet player, I am pretty regularly stationed right in front of one or more guitar cabinets, and by the end of the night, my ears are ringing fiercely. I currently use a pair of Earasers on a regular basis, not because they block the most sound -- although they do come close -- but because they're incredibly comfortable and almost invisible. If earplugs feel good and don't look silly, I know I'm more likely to wear them. And they reduce everything pretty evenly across the board, so I can hear what's going around me accurately.
But a little bit of research will tell you that Etymotic is one of the top companies for musicians' ear protection today. They have a number of models, including straightforward and inexpensive plugs and some that are more low-profile and perform even better. One of their most interesting products is their active noise reduction pair, which as far as I can tell, are the only one of their kind currently available. They interest me in particular, actually. With brass instruments, considerable vibration is transmitted through your actual face, so if you stuff a pair of even high-quality earplugs in too far, you may find that your horn is just about the only thing you can actually hear (though this might limit your need for your own monitor channel, if you get used to it). So if you're a brass player, need serious protection, and can afford them, they can save your ears in ways that others can't really approach.
There are several on our list made from soft silicone, and this material is very comfortable, even if it's not the most effective at isolation you from noise. Because it's so much more flexible than other material, the softest earplugs tend to take a little more getting used to in terms of how far you push them in and in what direction. There's also the DeciBullz to consider, which are great for musicians even though that wasn't the original purpose behind them. What I can say definitively about ear plugs, especially for musicians who need the utmost in comfort and sound quality at the same time, is that no one pair is right for everyone. Having worn many different varieties through the years and spoken with performers and sound technicians who have their own preference, one of these models will certainly work for you, though it may take some experimentation.
Etymotic Music Pro This company specializes in hearing protection research and development, and these top-of-the-line musician's earplugs are widely regarded as the best in the business. You'll need to schedule an appointment with a professional to have them fitted, but if you perform full-time, it may very well be worth the investment, because you only get two ears for your whole life. etymotic.com
Music: The Universal Language
Music is, of course, auditory, and its enjoyability depends very much on our ability to hear it.
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.
This auditory interference, and the physical imbalance it can actually cause, make dancing around on stage trying to hear the monitors a near impossibility.
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.
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.
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.