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Musician's ear plugs, sometimes called Hi-Fi earplugs because they reproduce sound accurately, are small devices that are inserted into the ear canal to reduce sound levels while performing or listening to loud music. Musician's ear plugs differ from normal ear plugs in that they reduce sound levels evenly across all audio bands — producing an accurate and crisp sound. Regular earplugs reduce high audio bands more than low and mid level ones, producing a muffled sound that muddies voices and instruments.
Extended exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss by damaging the inner ear and the nerves that carry messages to the brain. This type of hearing loss is defined by a combination of 3 things: how long a person is subjected to the loud sound, what the average decibel (db) level of the sound is, and what the highest db of the sound is.
Safe duration of unprotected exposure has been calculated for many typical applications. For example, the average person can attend a private party with a rock band for 5 hours without experiencing any hearing loss. However, a drummer can only practice drumming for 5 minutes before some loss occurs. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the average fan at the Super Bowl can only sit in the stands for 1 hour before risking hearing loss. Since accurate hearing of subtle tones and audio levels is essential for musicians who daily spend hours practicing and performing, these specialty ear plugs are a necessity.
Rather than just reducing noise levels by blocking sounds from entering the ear canal, musician's ear plugs are constructed by using tiny diaphragms that specifically reduce bass sounds coupled with materials that absorb other audio levels. Working together, these materials produce an accurately blended sound that is quieter than the unplugged sound, but still accurate.
Other types of ear plugs used to reduce noise levels, such as foam ear plugs, are pushed into the ear canal and expand to fill the canal to block noise. Ear plugs used to keep foreign objects from getting into the ear canal employ the same strategy. Water ear plugs are made from molded silicone or rubber, and are designed to let in most sounds at a pool or beach while keeping water out. Ear plugs can be single-use or reusable. Wax earplugs are no longer recommended – especially for children - as they are sometimes difficult to remove and can cause infection and irritation when not completely cleaned from the ear canal.
Musician's ear plugs can be bought pre-formed or be custom-fitted to the individual musician and the musician’s instrument of choice. Inaccurate fitting can cause the musician’s own voice or instrument to sound muddy. Custom-fit musician’s ear plugs should be only be purchased from licensed audiology professionals.