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6 Things You’re Wondering About Using Ear Plugs At A Concert

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There seems to be a stigma around wearing ear plugs at a concert. People think they’re going to look goofy or that they won’t be able to hear anything at all, but it’s important to protect your hearing or it may not be available to you someday. Sad, but true. The statistics are pretty shocking for an issue that can easily be prevented in most situations, be it occupational loudness or the high levels of sound at a concert.

I mean, people stand right next to speakers during live performances and don’t seem to think anything of it. Let’s break the stigma and discuss why you should be using ear plugs while at a concert.

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1. Why Should I Use Them? 

Roughly 37.5 million Americans aged 18 and over report trouble with hearing, while 25 million have experienced tinnitus (ringing in ears) lasting at least five minutes in the past year. There’s a chance you’re one of these people, and let me tell you, it’s no fun. Being a fanatic of music, I can’t imagine the nightmare it would be if I couldn’t listen to music due to hearing loss. Ear plugs will save your hearing. 

You might think you’re young and won’t cause any long-lasting damage to your ears this early on in life, but it only takes ONE event to damage your ears. Normal loudness levels of human conversation hover around 65 decibels. Concerts reach upwards of 100-120 decibels! And it only takes a few minutes of exposure to cause damage to the ears.

You know how you go home after a concert and laugh and joke about how you can’t hear anything and there’s a loud ringing in your ears? Yeah, that’s not a good thing. Your ears are not smiling. Being able to hear is a necessity, so save yourself the many years of medical hassle and purchase (or simply ask for) some ear plugs whenever in a loud environment. I occasionally experience tinnitus and wish I had started wearing ear plugs for concerts long before I actually did. 

2. Will I look ridiculous?

The realistic answer here is it depends. It depends on who you ask and which ones you buy. If you get hot pink ear plugs to wear to a metal show, people might glance at you a little funny, but for the most part, ear plugs blend in pretty easily. How often are you looking into somebody’s ear while you’re listening to your favorite band shred some tunes on stage? You can get ear plugs that are neutral colored to blend in with skin tones, so they usually go unnoticed. I’ve never received a comment from a stranger about wearing ear plugs at a show, but plenty of people have said thank you after I recommended them.

Any judgement about wearing ear plugs to a concert is probably coming from somebody who’s never tried it before, because believe me, it is life-changing. Plus, have you seen what some of these people wear to concerts nowadays? Most people have no right to judge you for a minor cosmetic alteration used to protect yourself and your future. Just do you.

3. Do They Actually Work?

YES. Obviously ear plugs help with lowering noise levels, or they wouldn’t exist, but I guess the question here is more so how well do they work? One of the biggest misconceptions I hear about wearing ear plugs to a concert is that you won’t be able to hear ANYTHING. I can’t comprehend the ignorance someone must possess to make this claim. If you’ve ever used a regular foam ear plug before, you know that you can even still hear somebody talking if they’re close enough to you. More on comparing foam ear plugs to high-fidelity ear plugs in a little bit.

As stated previously in this post, concert levels rise far above normal conversation levels. Unless you purchase something that is specifically touted as ‘noise-cancelling’, then there’s no need to worry about being deaf during a show and watching that precious ticket money go down the drain.

A lot of people believe that wearing ear plugs to a concert will make the music sound like dirt. It’s quite the opposite actually. The ear plugs cut out a lot of the higher frequencies of the music. When comparing the sound of a metal show with ear plugs inserted versus not, it literally sounds like you’re masking a shriek. You’ll wonder how you ever listened to that wall of sound in any pleasurable sort of way before. Because you’re getting rid of a lot of the harsh frequencies, you can hear the music more clearly. It transforms the show from a wall of sound slapping your ears around to a comprehensible, enjoyable wave of sound.

Harsh vocals used to get lost in a band’s performance before I wore ear plugs to shows. Now I can actually hear the vocalist and not feel like something is missing. Ear plugs are a no brainer.

4. Which Ones Should I Use?

There are three types of ear plugs that we will go over in this post: foam, high-fidelity, and custom. When comparing foam ear plugs to high fidelity ear plugs, they do have more of a ‘muffled’ sound, but only in comparison. If you jump right into using foam ear plugs for a concert (which I recommend when dipping your toes in), it won’t ‘break the music’ so to speak. Because you are cutting out high frequencies, the music is going to sound softer, or dampened. 

High fidelity ear plugs work a little differently, more like ear buds used for listening to music in general. They provide a flat attenuation of the sound, meaning that the music sounds the same, but it is just at a lower volume. Again, if you use foam ear plugs, the noise will be lower AND you will notice a dampening of the music. With high fidelity, only the volume of the music is affected, so the quality of the music itself is preserved.

Finally, custom ear plugs. As the name suggests, these ear plugs are tailor-made to your specific ear. A mold is taken of your ear canal and the ear plug is crafted using said mold. These are typically made in more of a health-related situation, but musicians use custom ear plugs all the time. You’ll hear them referred to as in-ear monitors in that context. The pros? Custom ear plugs are more comfortable, and they can come with interchangeable filters so that you can control how much and what kind of volume reduction you need. The cons? Price and timing. Delivery for custom ear plugs usually takes weeks, so if you have a concert coming up this weekend, there’s no way you could get any in time. Price-wise, these bad boys can cost you in the hundreds of dollars depending on where you get them.

5. Are They Expensive? 

They don’t have to be. If you want to go all out and get yourself an all-around solution for listening to music and seeing music performed live, then sure, you could drop the big bucks on getting custom ear plugs fitted to your ear for a truly perfect fit. But this is overkill if you ask me.

Here’s a little tip, most bars will have foam ear plugs available at the venue. That’s right. Sometimes all you have to do is ask. When I’ve forgotten my ear plugs at home, the bartenders are always there to save the night with a FREE pair of ear plugs. Granted, I usually throw them a small tip for going through the trouble, but still, better than losing my hearing. Now, don’t quote me on this, as it may vary by location, but for me, most of the time the bar will have a free pair. 

If you want to buy your own (what up, Ms. Independent), a bucket of foam ear plugs costs less than $10, and there are budget high fidelity ear plugs as well, so you don’t have to break the bank to stay safe when it comes to ear plugs. Good high-fidelity ear plugs could range from $20-30, but they are well worth the investment since they are reusable and preserve the quality of the music.

If you’re broke AND you don’t feel like talking to anybody at the show (what up, introverts), then there is one last option: headphones. That’s right. You can just plop in your daily earbuds that you use for jamming out. But before you do, just know that this will make it a lot more obvious that you are using ear protection in case you are worried about that. The cords from your headphones will be noticeable, and somebody might even think you’re listening to something else while at a concert, which you would be insane to do. Just smile and wave. 

6. What If I Don’t Wanna?

If you think you’re invincible and want to defy the statistics, then you can choose to continue risking your hearing when attending live concerts. If you personally have any stigma against wearing ear plugs at a concert, I highly recommend you try foam ear plugs at least once before making your final decision. It’s been life-changing for me, and I’ll never go back. As a metal fan, or a music fan in general, one of your key objectives should be to preserve the life of the one tool that allows you to enjoy this passion: your ears. No one is going to go out of the way to say you look ridiculous for wearing ear plugs at the show. Believe me, there are a million other distractions at a concert to which people will be paying attention. Try it out, and let me know what you think of this new found revelation (New Found Revelation is my favorite punk band). 

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Thanks for reading, and I hope this post has helped clear some misconceptions for you regarding ear plugs and live music. Remember to find me all across the internet with my handle @camnez1 via Instagram, Twitter, and now even Pinterest. Check out my photography portfolio and feel free to contact me with any business inquiries, photo shoot requests, or topic ideas relating to the world of metal. Stay brutal, and thanks for reading.