Level vs length
It isn’t only the decibel level that damages your hearing, but it’s also the length of exposure. For example, a rock concert can put out 120dB. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the pain threshold is 140dB. They recommend shorter exposures at higher decibels, so a “safe” exposure at a rock concert without ear protection is a mere 7 seconds! That’s the exposure at which NIOSH estimates you risk permanent hearing damage.
What’s a musician to do? Typical earplugs take care of volume, but it’s critical for a musician to hear a full range of sound frequencies without becoming muffled. Fortunately, there are special ear molds available that can protect your hearing without changing the balance of frequencies.
Musician earplugs or ear molds can be custom made. They reduce sound levels enough to protect the ears, but they don’t distort sound. Because these ear molds fit deep in the ear they allow you to hear your own voice without the distortion typical of lower quality earplugs or molds.
In-ear musician monitors (IEMs) are designed especially for performers: you hear what your audience hears. Custom fit molds are ideal. In order to get the best fit, it’s essential to have an audiologist make an impression for each ear.
Considering how long and frequently you will wear your musician ear molds, you want to assure that you’ll get the best ear protection, sound quality, and comfort.