If you’re a regular concert or festival attendee, you probably know that music can result in serious problems with your hearing. That ringing in your ears isn’t a badge of honor, it’s actually a sign of hearing loss. Taking care of your hearing should be a top priority for anyone, especially people who regularly attend raves and EDM festivals. This is usually where they experience long hours (at times 3-day weekends) without enough rest and relaxation for the whole body, let alone the ears.
The good news is that more people have started wearing ear protection at festivals, we’re starting to see a lot of those but not nearly enough.
A good pair of musician’s earplugs helps reduce the overall intensity of amplified music without compromising on clarity or detail. Investing in earplugs is a great way to be able to continue to enjoy festivals over many decades & it’s not expensive anymore!
We’ve already discussed the types of ear plugs in a previous article here. But we think it’s time to take a deeper dive into the subject. So keep reading and check out the answers to the most common myths and questions, as well as a great recommended selection of tried and tested earplugs.
The Sound Facts
Let’s get the facts straight.
Unlike your other senses, hearing is a chemical and mechanical reaction to sound. Inside our ears are several components like the eardrum, some tiny bones, the auditory hearing nerves and others. Sounds between 80-85 dB can cause damage after around 2 hours of exposure. So if you’re at a festival you’re likely getting around ~100-110 dB sounds for hours on end. Decibels work in a weird logarithmic way that takes in human perception so 100 dB is something like 20x as loud as 80 dB. In short, the music levels at EDM festivals will damage your ears with long exposure times.
Increasing the sound volume is necessary to get the music to tens of thousands of people at once, consider the large space of Tomorrowland for example. It’s also important for making the music sound good so that you don’t end up with only high-pitched stuff with no bass. You need to blast the music in order to listen to it even when you’re far in the back, also to feel it, dance to it and be able to tell what’s being played.
When we listen to loud music without any hearing protection, we damage components from inside our ears. Putting a lot of stress and activity on these physical components from inside our ears will cause their function to decline just like any machine we use like a car for example or the computer.
The damage will be noticed immediately: for example your car will stop, or your computer will heat up unusually. In the case of your ears, the damage will be done progressively and is not something that you will be able to notice on the short term. Hearing specialists describe hearing damage at EDM festivals like giving your ears a concussion. The ringing experienced after the event is similar in that sense.
That ringing is medically called Tinnitus. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people usually can’t hear it. Tinnitus is a common problem. It affects about 15% to 20% of people, and is especially common in older adults. It is described as one of the most obnoxious sensations you can experience. Imagine 60 years of your life hearing the “eeeeeeee” sound because you thought you were too cool for earplugs.
According to Diane Novak, Au.D. Assistant Director at Northwestern Universit’s Center for Audiology, Speech, Language and Learning, some issues include hearing loss, tinnitus (the perception of noise or ringing in the ears) and a decrease to sound tolerance (Hyperacusis). “Noise exposure is cumulative and often occurs over time without people knowing until the hearing decreases enough to cause difficulty communicating”
In most EDM shows, festival goers want to feel the bass more and obviously cannot control the noise. Moving away from the sound source and limiting time spent listening to loud sounds are two important tips to take into consideration, but are they enough?
The Smart Thing To Do
If you’re really passionate about live music, investing in earplugs is an essential way to be able to continue to enjoy it over many decades. There’s no reason not to be using ear protection. Earplugs should just be a normal part of going to shows. Do you see people opposing sunglasses? The same applies here. Earplugs are simple tools that filter out some of the extremes so that your whole musical experience is safer and easier to handle.
In reference to a long list of users and music concert/festival goers here’s an updated shortlist of different Earplug brands we recommend:
- ACS Pro 17 – $200 USD
- Earaser – $50 USD
- Eargasm – $40 USD
- Etymotics ER20XS – $20 USD
- Downbeats – $15 USD
A lot of discussions happen around these and other earplugs on the market. These are designed for music. A few notable mentions here:
The Hearprotek earplugs are a fan favorite, Etymotics have been recommended by a lot of festival attendees and are highly recommended. Earpeace is also another recommended brand. They feel like those dampen things a little more than another recommended brand, the Downbeats. Their carrying case comes with an extra third earplug so that if you lose one, you’re still covered.
Zack is a dance music event photographer. Here’s what he said:
“I photographed countless nightclubs and festivals for 5 years before finally deciding to get some protection and let me tell you, it’s 100% worth it. Being in the photo pit and on stage for hours on end permanently damaged my ears beyond repair and I have trouble hearing high frequencies now. Thankfully one year at EDC Vegas, ACS Customs had a booth in the artist compound offering free custom molded ear plugs and I jumped on that opportunity. They are by far the most comfortable ear plugs I’ve ever had and now I don’t go to a festival or club (even for fun) without them. I HIGHLY recommend getting a pair custom molded to your ears. There’s no fatigue after hours of use and you can even change the filters on them to block certain frequencies. I can still hear people around me talking. They’re expensive but for the health of your ears, worth every dollar.”
The Myths Debunked
Earplugs make the music sound bad:
Wrong! The professional team of sound crew and Djs at the events are mixing wearing earplugs. If you want to hear what the professional sound techs are hearing, wear earplugs. They are mixing assuming the audience is wearing ear protection. Quality earplugs bring the volume in your ears down just enough so that it’s not painful, which makes the music easier to listen to and easier to discern. The volume still shakes your guts around and you can feel the music while also not causing physical damage to your body.
We’re talking about quality earplugs here. Foam earplugs that you squeeze and shove into your ears are basically not good and don’t give the results we’re looking for. In a previous article we mentioned them as a type of plugs, we now don’t recommend using them. What we’re aiming towards is the type of ear protection specifically designed for listening to music, the ones that don’t make the high end muffled beyond recognition.
Earplugs Cost A Lot Of Money:
Based on the above list, it should be clear that they actually don’t cost a lot. You’re spending $250 on tickets alone, and some $40 in weird ambiguous fees that you’ll pay, and you’ll spend $15 for an overpriced sandwich at a food truck. You absolutely have the money to protect your hearing, it matters most.
Earplugs Make Me Look Stupid:
Really? You’re at a music festival going nuts with a bunch of crazy people all around you and you think you will be judged on your looks? The top quality earplugs are clear and sit inside your ear. Nobody will notice them.
I won’t be able to hear people talking to me:
Earplugs aren’t like a filter they just bring the volume of everything down a bit. You can absolutely hear conversation with earplugs.
Earplugs are an uncomfortable hassle:
Think of it this way: Tinnitus is also VERY uncomfortable. Maybe all you need is better quality earplugs. You can get custom earplugs made that fit to your ear so they’re a perfect fit. Keep in mind that even if you’re going to be exposed to loud music for a little while, you will be thankful you invested in them when you’re much older.
We need to still be able to go to shows when we’re retired! Respect your bodies and take care of your ears, they do a lot for you.
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