Pete Mason

Protecting Your Hearing: A Guide to Earplugs

Words: Pete Mason

In the fall of 2010, I went to a series of concerts over a three week span. At midpoint of these shows, October 30th in Atlantic City for Phish, I became acutely aware of a ringing and slight pain in my ears. I ignored the sensations, but they persisted the next day as well. Over the next week, the ringing faded to non-existence. When I later saw Cornmeal at Red Square in Albany, I found myself taking pictures near a speaker and then felt the ringing come back, strongly. The ringing this time did not go away. I continued to see live music but kept away from speakers.


In December, I contacted my doctor and he informed me that I had tinnitus, a constant ringing sensation in my ears that did not go away, and was noticeable especially in the silence before I went to sleep each night. I decided it was time to invest in a good pair of ear plugs. For nearly ever show since last December, I have worn earplugs to shows and not missed a note, not had an earplug fall out of my ear and the ringing has subsided substantially. While I have a couple pairs of ear plugs that work well, I noticed many of my friends and regulars at shows did not wear earplugs, typically because they didn’t want to miss the sound of the show. After talking to them about how the sound doesn’t get lost in the process an the harmful noise is filtered out, it seemed that the benefits of earplugs were valuable to all live music fans and sought out different styles and brands of earplugs so that others may benefit from earplugs and not succumb to tinnitus, or worse, hearing loss.

I interviewed Dr. Michael Devito, an ear, nose and throat specialist, or Otolaryngologist, practicing in the Capital District area of New York regarding hearing protection, benefits of earplugs and what can happen without proper hearing protection. “Tinnitus is a subjective noise that some people describe as a motor running, a high pitch, etc…, but because it is subjective, there is no real objective way to solve it, and thus, treatment is difficult. It was originally thought Tinnitus came from the ear cells in your inner ear as they get floppy and move around, which gives a neural impulse to the brain and the sound is then interpreted as a ringing. However, instead it may originate in the auditory cortex of the brain.” Dr. Devito continued regarding the hazards associated with lack of hearing protection. “If it is continuing to ring for a month, then the ringing might not go away at that point. Hearing loss is the other concern for protracted, long term noise exposure. Depending on the music artists and your proximity to the speakers, the sound can greatly impact you. The more decibels, the worse it can be on unprotected ears.”

READ ON for the basics about how to wear ear plugs and how they can help as well as a comparison of different brands and types…

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