Protect Your Hear-Holes: Earplugs at Gigs, and Etymotics ER-20 Review

I already have my work cut out writing visualist blog CreateDigitalMotion.com, and occasionally on CreateDigitalMusic as well, so I hope you won’t mind, dear Edgys, if I “re-purpose” some content from those sites from time to time.

This is a particularly timely piece of repurposing though, with the triumphant Edge Launch last Friday night, and loud, shouty bands like DZ playing, I was a little concerned that we weren’t providing hearing protection. Not that this is necessarily the responsibility of the venue, but I think it’s something that caring Places Of Noise should do, and I’ll be talking to our staff about getting a supply of cheap disposable ‘plugs for patrons of our shows.

If, however, you’re someone who sees a lot of gigs, cares about how those gigs sound, or who cares about not disposing of things which don’t necessarily need to be thrown away, then you should invest in a slightly more permanent solution. Enter the Etymotics ER-20 High Fidelity earplugs.

Etymotic ER-20

As a VJ and live performer, I’ve spent lots of time on stages and in clubs, and always worn hearing protection. Usually the disposable foam ones. They protect your ears well, but provide an uneven attenuation of sound, removing too much high-end. In non-audio-geek terms, this makes the music sound muffled, like it’s coming from the next room, or it’s being played through some speakers which are buried in blankets.

Higher quality earplugs have a more even attenuation, which makes the waves delivered to your ears sound much more natural. I’ve actually found that using them makes loud gigs sound even better than barebacking. When exposed to a loud sound, your stapedius reflex slightly closes your inner ear. This makes things sound different, and it’s why your hearing is muffled after a loud show, but it’s not enough to protect you from permanent hearing damage.

The ER-20s aren’t quite as comfortable as the soft, squishy ones, but the better sound more than makes up for this, and it protects the world from soft, squishy landfill. I actually had a hearing test done on Tuesday morning, less than 12 hours after seeing Phoenix at the Entertainment Centre. It was an extremely loud gig, yet my test results were all well within the normal range.

So. Hearing protection = compulsory. Higher quality hearing protection = lovely. If you’d like to know more on the subject, my original post on CreateDigitalMusic has loads of comments from musicians and performers around the world, both heaping love on Good Earplugs, and lamenting the fact that they didn’t know about them until Too Late.

If you’d like to get some of your own, you can order them for AU$35 (inc. delivery) from Headphonic in Australia.

5 replies to “Protect Your Hear-Holes: Earplugs at Gigs, and Etymotics ER-20 Review

  1. Sophie

    I totally agree. Any frequent gig-goer who doesn’t wear hearing protection should be ok with the reality of being as deaf as a great-grandpa by the time they hit their thirties.

    There are places that can custom-mould earplugs for you, as well as calibrating them for the sort of noise you want to protect yourself from. An ex of mine was a drummer in a rock band who also liked going to dance clubs, and he swore by his custom-moulded and calibrated ones. They were pretty expensive ($200-ish) from what I remember, but worth it.

  2. Stuart McMillen

    I agree that hearing protection is something that regular gig-goers should pay attention to. I’ve been using Etymotic ear plugs for about 3 years and they are great.

    I will definitely need them when I see Dinosaur Jr. on Tuesday night! It’s really good to get the ‘whole body’ experience of hearing really loud music travelling through your bones, but also good to know that you aren’t suffering long-term damage as a result.

  3. Jaymis

    @Sophie: Yep, the custom ones are the next step up in awesomeness. Apparently considerably more comfortable, and physically safer as well (I’m always worried that some drunkard will bump me on the side of my head and send the Etymotics in to my brain). The disposable foam ones seem to cost around $2 at venues though, so the custom ones would pay themselves off after a couple of years of gig-going, depending on your hardcoreness.
    The other advantage of custom moulded ones is that you can use the moulds if you decide to get some In-Ear monitors, which are the ultimate in headphones!

    @Stuart: Enjoy Dinosaur Jr. I’d love to be there, but this is an enormous month for gigs, and I had to make some cuts.

  4. Ben Hetherington

    hearos make the exact same ear plug. unless hearos have changed their name to Etymotics….. I swear by them though. although they do protrude your ears quite a lot which is a bit annoying.
    Hearos do have other non-disposable ear plug options which don’t do quite as good a job but are considerably cheaper.

  5. Mort

    Thanks for the advice. It helped convince me to buy two pair. Cheers and all the best mate. Mort from Melbourne.

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