Love Your Music AND Your Ears
It was one of those scenarios where I've known better for a long time. I can recall several concerts when I was in high school where I came out of the venue afterward with everything sounding fuzzy. And then there was the infamous moment in the 1990s when I saw Emerson Lake and Powell and one ear actually hurt after the gig. Turns out there was one specific blast of sound which actually damaged the top end hearing register in my right ear.
You'd think that all that combined with a history of hearing loss over time on my dad's side of the family would have made me better about protecting my hearing, but I have to say it had stayed sporadic. Part of the problem is that I have smaller than usual size ear canals for an adult (so does my mom) and it makes finding ear plugs that fit without hurting a genuine challenge.
The person who I heard recommend these ear plugs works as a sound engineer for a living, and for a guy like that, hearing is EVERYTHING. And the story he told was both really funny and to the point. See, I was at a festival in the summer of 2012. Live music happens there, but it's not amplified so people don't give it a second thought. I was hanging out with the sound engineer and a woman who was drumming at the event, listening to them talk about sound. He mentioned that he wears ear plugs no matter what. She was sort of impressed and asked what kind. These are the ear plugs he pulled out of his pocket. He talked about how important hearing is to his day job. We concurred. And then he told the really funny story that made protecting your hearing hit home.
The Engineer had spent some time hanging out at the festival with a teenage boy. A kid who listened to a lot of dubstep. (The Drummer interrupted at this point and said "What's dubstep?" and the Engineer went "Ooon-ST... ooon-ST.... ooon-ST..." and all us slightly older folks got it.) So the Engineer is talking with the DubKid about how loud his listens to his music, and how important hearing is and here's how he got the point across to a 14-year-old.
The Engineer said, "You got a girlfriend?"
Engineer: "Imagine that every time you got together with your girl and made out with her, you shaved a little bit off your penis each time."
Engineer: "That's what happens to your hearing every time you listen to really loud music without protecting your ears. You lose a little bit without even realizing it. If that happened to your junk, you'd be down to a nub or nothing in no time. And you can't get it back."
We all laughed. And then we soberly thought about losing a little bit of our hearing each time we listened to something loud. Losing hearing without even realizing it was happening.
So, I decided it was worth it to give these musician's ear plugs a try. The foam ones are a a struggle to fit and keep in my ears, but that's not the case with these. I make sure to keep them in their little case so they don't get lost in my backpack. These don't work to muffle the sound, they work to drop the overall noise decibels while still keeping the distinctness of all the different sounds around you. It's like having a personal volume dial for your ears. When I saw Nine Inch Nails, I got all the industrial beauty, all the subtlety and none of the ear trauma.
And spending less than $10 is a worthwhile investment for a lifetime of hearing.
When you go to see live music, do you wear ear plugs?
Etymotic also makes ear plugs for those who need a larger size, or for professional musicians and gun enthusiasts (who might need a much more comprehensive level of ear protection).
What's been your experience with either protecting your hearing, or not protecting your hearing? Do you have any family history or medical reason to protect your ability to hear? Have you had anything happen where you experienced some hearing loss?