Table of contents
- History of tinnitus caused by very loud music
- WHO recommends using earplugs for concerts
- Best earplugs for concerts
- Hearing protectors with acoustic filters
- Tailor-made hearing protectors
- Concert kit
- Foam earplugs
- Wax or silicone earplugs
have you ever had a ringing in your ears after leaving a festival or a discotheque? It's very annoying and the best indicator that you've been overexposed to noise. Behind it there is a big problem that many of us are still unaware of. That ringing may never go away, or it may be the preamble to a significant hearing loss. That is why, although it may seem a contradiction, true music lovers use earplugs at concerts.
In Spain, few people still wear them, and many people look at them as if they were Martians from the Starship Enterprise. But in Scandinavia, where in some areas they are years ahead of us and the love of music is the best antidote to the darkness and cold of Winterfell, they know why they do it: if you love music and want to continue to be moved by every note, you have to protect yourself. Who would be crazy enough to look directly at the sun? It's the same with loud music.
Nowadays there are special protectors for listening to music. They let all acoustic frequencies through equally, but lower the decibels that enter your ears. The result? A music experience that is still amazing, but much safer. The concert earplug industry is developing tremendously. There are even state-of-the-art concert earplugs in which you decide how much you want to lower the decibels. It is the most responsible way to enjoy your passion, continue to do so in the future, and not burst your eardrums.
The story of a tinnitus caused by loud music
For Pau Vila, music is his life. Literally. He is a classical percussionist and music lover. He studied percussion in Spain and then went on a scholarship to study a master's degree as a percussion soloist at The Royal College of Music in Stockholm, one of the best music schools in Sweden.
He has been going to festivals for half his life and still remembers the day his father gave him a pair of ear protectors so that his ears wouldn't burst when he was rehearsing in that old garage that reverberated like a flamenco cajón with the beat of a drumstick. But he admits that at that time, playing rock with his mates as if there was no tomorrow and with the immortal perception of adolescence, he didn't always wear them. Until years later, during a soundcheck with his summer orchestra, a gentle whistling sound appeared and stayed with him for five years.
As bad as it was, he was lucky. It didn't go any further. Nor did he develop other hearing problems, such as the onset of deafness. Millions of young people who listen to loud music suffer from tinnitus. In some cases, it accompanies them for life. In others, it leads to deafness. For a musician, losing his hearing is like amputating part of his soul. Since then, Pau has taken his earplugs with him to every concert. And since then, he has been trying to raise awareness of how important they are. In addition, loud music can cause irritation, lack of concentration, fatigue, discomfort and progressive hearing loss.
At festivals, many people still look at Pau with curiosity when they notice that he wears earplugs. It's curious to see how there are still people who stand next to three-metre loudspeakers without wearing earplugs. It's all very well to feel the music all over your body when you get close to a giant loudspeaker, to feel the bass in your chest, but you have to do it with common sense. These are speakers that are designed to project music 300 metres away.
When Pau flew from Valencia to Stockholm, he stopped being the oddball and became the norm. Walking into his master's class he was surprised by the Swedes' sensitivity to hearing health. At his school, everyone rehearses with earplugs. And when he went to his first concert, he was amazed. In Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Finland, it is normal for everyone to take earplugs from home to protect their ears at concerts. Many festivals even give them away with the ticket. Sometimes there are stands where they sell them for 10 kroner (1 €). In Spain, we still haven't broken this sound barrier and we are light years behind the Nordic countries.
Pau Vila, rehearsing. One of the people responsible for bringing this article to light.
The WHO recommends using earplugs for concerts
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the maximum noise level to which a person can be safely exposed is 85 decibels (dB) for a maximum of 8 hours a day. Taking into account that the noise level at a discotheque or concert is around 100 dB, the safe exposure time would be 30 minutes per day. At some large festivals and venues, the sound in the areas closest to the speakers is often much louder, and people are not aware of the long-term consequences without protection.
The WHO recently conducted a study in which young people underwent hearing tests before and after attending a concert. The results were overwhelming: 53.6% of the teenagers said they heard worse, and 25% said they experienced tinnitus or ringing in their ears. Since then, the WHO recommends attending large events with earplugs or some form of protection. Hearing loss in young people is an increasingly serious problem in Spain. One of the reasons for this is the loud music played at discos, festivals and concerts.
the solution? ….
Protect yourself. It's no joke. In Spain, one in five teenagers has problems hearing well and there are more than 1 billion young people in the world at risk of deafness from listening to loud music.
The best earplugs for concerts
At Culturasonora we are very aware of this issue. As sound professionals and music lovers we believe that we have to start making people aware of the importance of enjoying a good live performance, but with common sense, as hearing loss is irreversible. For this reason, we have made a selection of the different alternatives you have to protect your ears when you go to a concert, a festival or go out to a discotheque.
They come in all types and for all budgets. Some are better than others, but all of them are better than none at all. We do believe that if you want to go to a festival or listen to a good gig, it's best to use special earplugs for concerts. These are hearing protectors specifically for listening to music, which is why they don't change the frequency response and only lower the volume. It's like hearing the same thing, with the same sound quality and detail, but at a slightly lower volume. However, there are different alternatives. Shall we start?
Hearing protectors with acoustic filters
For us, one of the best value for money options. These are ear protectors specially made for concerts. They are small and transparent, so you hardly notice that you are wearing them. What's interesting is that they are able to dampen loud music while preserving the full spectrum and quality of the sound. It's like listening to the same thing, with identical sound details, but at a lower volume. They are usually hypoallergenic, easy to put on and very small. They usually come with a small key-ring case so you can take them with you wherever you go. Alpine' s are inexpensive, good quality and offer good performance.
Custom hearing protectors
These are custom-made earplugs, a type of pre-moulded ear protection. A professional makes a mould of the pinna for you. The ear protectors are then made to these measurements, so they fit snugly to the pinna and are barely visible from the outside. Many have a little wheel to adjust the decibels you want to attenuate. Others have a series of filters that are used to remove a certain number of decibels. What they do is attenuate the decibels but provide the same bass, midrange and treble frequencies. This is the most professional option, but they can be expensive. Some are around €100. We really like the GAES Music ERmodels.
Electronic hearing protectors
These are the latest generation of hearing protectors. The electronic system is activated when the sound exceeds safety levels. You can also activate it naturally, and it is able to amplify the softest sounds. They are an excellent choice, but they are not cheap. The GAES MUSIC PRO TM model looks very good.
We liked this kit a lot. It comes with different types of earplugs. It also comes with a case that is perfect for taking to festivals and can be used as a key ring. It's cheap, practical and very convenient.
These are foam earplugs that fit snugly in the ear and seal delicately once you've put them in. They are the cheapest but also the most controversial among connoisseurs. The reason? Many say that they work well against high-pitched sounds, but that they let bass sounds through. This is a pity, because bass frequencies are the most acoustically pleasurable, but also the most damaging to our hearing. However, if you don't have anything better at hand, it's much better to wear them than to go bareback. After some research on the net, we really liked these earplugs from 3M because of their good reviews. According to users, they are one of the best foam earplugs on the market. They are hypoallergenic and fit very well in the ear. Those who have used them say they insulate better than other foam earplugs. They weigh nothing and are perfect to take to concerts. They are also quite affordable
Wax or silicone earplugs
They are cheap. From our point of view, if they are well fitted and they create a vacuum, they insulate much better than foam earplugs. However, the sound experience you will have at the concert will leave a lot to be desired. However, if you don't have anything better at hand, it is much better to wear them than to go bareback