qb earcare is now a registered supplier of custom earplugs from Advanced Communication Solutions (ACS). We also can provide in-ear monitors, but these are a more niche product aimed at performing musicians, and the focus of this article is on custom musicians earplugs.
Are custom musicians earplugs not also a niche product aimed at performing musicians?
Well…yes, but they can be extraordinarily useful in other situations too. I’ve detailed three of those below.
First of all – what are musicians earplugs?
Essentially they are earplugs, custom-made for individual ears. They are made from a soft-but-firm silicone material, which makes them comfortable to wear for long periods, and – crucially – they contain a filter which keeps music (and all sound) sounding natural.
Standard (un-filtered) earplugs do a great job of protecting ears and hearing, but they muffle the sound, because (due to the natural acoustic properties of sound waves) they reduce the higher frequencies more than the lower frequencies. As a result, what you hear through them is a muffled version of what’s going on, as mid and higher frequencies contain all the clarity in speech, and the ‘brightness’ in music.
For (e.g.) some work situations where you only want to cut down the level, and don’t need to communicate with colleagues at the same time, this muffling effect is not a problem. If you do need to communicate with others, then filtered earplugs are the way to go.
Ok, so three situations I’d find them useful even though I’m not a performing musician?
Yep! Here they are:
Listening to live music The most obvious, perhaps. If you are a regular gig-goer, and enthusiastically catching up on live events now that Covid restrictions have eased, you will be regularly exposing your ears to sound levels in excess of 100 decibels, which – over time – will likely cause noise-induced hearing loss. Wearing unfiltered earplugs will protect your hearing, but seriously reduce your enjoyment of the music, as it will come across dull and muffled. Musicians earplugs, on the other hand, will preserve the timbre and quality of the sound, but reduce the overall loudness level, protecting your hearing. Will this not make it too quiet? It is, after all, a gig… Not if we choose the filter strength correctly. There are four filters available for musicians earplugs, providing 10, 15, 17 and 20dB of reduction. Making things too quiet, while being a safer option, does remove some of the excitement and sensation of being at a live show. For those who attend events frequently, some of which are very loud, some not so much, you can buy a second set of different strength filters and swap them out yourself as and when required.
Driving In a car/truck, especially when driving long distances, our ears can become fatigued due to the constant presence of road, wind and engine noise. Wearing filtered earplugs will retain awareness of outside sounds (e.g. emergency service sirens) while reducing the overall noise level to something much more comfortable and less fatiguing. If you have a travelling companion, you will still be able to hear their voice clearly, as the clarity in their speech will not be muffled. Same for the radio/stereo. It’s a game-changer!
Noisy family board games I’m sorry? Yep, this was reported to me by a client who got his earplugs mainly for use in music rehearsals and gigs. Apparently he put them in for a particularly raucous family board game and it lowered his stress levels significantly! But really, there are many random scenarios where noise levels are going to be high for a sustained period, and we would love to reduce them, without compromising our ability to communicate with others. Listening to a podcast, for example, or watching something on TV, while workmen are drilling outside.
Sounds good. Is 20dB the maximum reduction available?
No. Stronger (up to 27dB attenuation) filters are available – these don’t provide as flat a frequency response, so are not so ideal for musicians, but they still let a lot of clarity through. These are suitable for (e.g.) motorsport, where being able to hear a comms unit in a helmet is desirable, but stronger noise reduction is required.
What about non-filtered custom earplugs, are they still useful?
Absolutely. Solid earplugs are ideal for sleeping, or simply for when you want to make things as quiet as possible, and communication isn’t required.
Do solid earplugs remove ALL sound?
No. It’s impossible to do this, as once sound reaches a certain level, it sets the skull vibrating, and sound is transmitted direct into the cochlea (organ of hearing) via bone conduction. But solid earplugs will make things as quiet as it’s possible to get!
How do I get my hands on a pair of custom earplugs, and how much do they cost?
Give me a call on 07379 445709 – I am available on this number most days, and will respond to voicemails as quickly as I can. I run an ear wax removal clinic on Portobello High Street on Mondays and Fridays, and would be delighted to see people on those days, to take the impressions required for custom earplugs (or IEMs).
Or you can book an appointment online.
Full price list on the website, but in short: unfiltered earplugs start at £84, musicians earplugs are £149, and in-ear monitors start from £369.