Many musicians use ear plugs to protect themselves from noise induced hearing loss in practice, rehearsal, and sometimes even performance. I have used custom made 15 Decibel ear plugs for years, when practicing high piccolo passages and in loud orchestra passages. Some commonly used types of ear plugs include:
Foam ear plugs: These have the advantage of being cheap, disposable, and universally fitting. The HSO keeps a case of these at all rehearsals for anyone who feels the need. However, they have many disadvantages. They usually have an attenuation rating of 29 Db, and they attenuate the high frequencies much more than the low frequencies. As a flutist, this means that I can't hear myself, my colleagues in the wind section, or the conductor well enough, but I can hear the drums and the bass just fine! Fortunately, there are better options.
ER-20 High Fidelity Earplugs: These are a non-custom earplug that attenuates sound at about 20 DB at all frequencies. I have seen them priced from $10-24. These work well, but are not as comfortable as custom made plugs. They are only available with the 20 Db rating. They are made by Etymotic Reseach.
Custom made musicians' earplugs: the most
expensive option, but the most comfortable and with the most options. For these,
you have ear molds made at a local hearing aid store. The molds are sent to a
lab, which makes the plug and inserts a filter with your desired attenuation
rating. Custom made plugs are available in 9 Db, 15 Db, and 25 Db ratings.
Fifteen Db plugs are usually recommended for classical musicians, and 25 Db
plugs for rock musicians. The 9 Db plugs tend to attenuate the higher
frequencies a little more than the lower frequencies. The 15 Db plugs have
the most even attenuation. Start by contacting Etymotic
Research , or a lab that will make the plugs, and ask them to recommend a
lab in your area that they do business with. The lab I used is:
Copyright 2003-2017. All rights reserved.
Barbara Hopkins, Flutist