Don’t Forget Your Earplugs!


Earplugs are one of the essential items to add to your festival or event survival kit!

Saying that I don’t care about people wearing earplugs at events would be a lie. I really do care and it pains me when I see my friends act in a reckless way about something that cannot be recovered. Loud noises, yes the same loud noises you encounter at events all of the time, are damaging your ears whether you like it or not. Your mileage may vary, everyone has different bodies, but at the end of the day, the damage that is done to your ears exists whether you acknowledge it or not. There is absolutely no way that I can force anyone to wear hearing protection while attending events. There really isn’t. When I bring it up with friends in different groups I tend to hear the same thing repeat itself over and over.

“They’re uncomfortable and make my ears hurt.”
“I can hear just fine after events. I don’t need them.”
“Who needs earplugs? I have never worn them and don’t care to either.”
“But I can’t hear the music as well with them in, it turns the bass down too much.”

But our generation is facing a very serious problem right now. You can be a regular, average festival attendee or even the front man for one of the world most legendary rock bands, but it doesn’t really matter. The World Health Organization released documentation last year that 1.1 BILLION people are at risk of hearing loss. That isn’t a million, it’s 1/7th of the entire population of the planet! Yet people still don’t take this epidemic seriously and protect themselves at events.

Dillon Francis & Zedd are on top of the earplug game.
To be fair, many promoters who throw events have begun to ship earplugs with their festival passes in hopes to get people on board with the idea.

Insomniac Events has shipped out earplugs in their past boxes for the Electric Daisy Carnival, Coachella notably shipped a pair of DUBS earplugs with every box, and Ultra Miami recently shipped out their boxes with some plugs as well. Artists like Dillon Francis and Zedd are also on the hearing loss prevention front. The problem doesn’t really stop there though because once they are in the hands of the people attending, they need to get used.

Coachella 2015 Ticket Box included DUBS earplugs.
Coachella 2015 Ticket Box included DUBS earplugs.
When I started attending events I never really thought that hearing loss would be an issue.

Granted, I definitely stayed more towards the back of the venue during sets, but after returning from events the next day of drowned out sounds just became ordinary to me. It was the same feeling after being in a loud club downtown, and it honestly made me feel uncomfortable. As my involvement in the community began to grow, I noticed a few things about my hearing and the environment around me. The first thing I noticed was that it genuinely began to be a discomfort in my life. Second, was that I began to realize that the people who were surrounded by the music constantly were definitely taking some form of precaution to protect their hearing.

What pushed me over the edge was probably one of the nights I was at Bassmnt here in San Diego.

I noticed that it was just significantly louder than ever before and whoever was DJ’ing played a track with some high-pitched screeching noises. I remember that noise hurting my ears so badly that I ended up covering them with my hands and leaving for a separate area of the club. I found some foam earplugs that were left on an empty bottle service table, put them in and then carried on with my evening problem free. That was the moment I decided to look into earplugs and find something to prevent that from happening again.

Starting with foam earplugs, which admittedly suck and I only use as a last resort, I looked to the internet for my next step up in the game.

I found that Etymotics were popular and cheap, so I grabbed a few pairs of those to begin testing different styles and types. Honestly, if you’re going to get a one-size-fits-all style of earplugs, these are the ones to get. I did notice that the bass was a bit flatter than before, but in all reality, the only difference while wearing them was that it sounded like someone took the volume dial of the event and just turned it down a few notches. Coachella sent me a pair of DUBS in my box last year, so those were also fun to try. I personally was not a huge fan of the earplugs that were sent because I didn’t feel that they fit my ears as comfortably as possible. Maybe it was an issue with the size of the ear bud in general, but I decided to pass on going with them when I went to get better sound quality. I wanted better sound quality, a better fit for my ears, and a reasonable cost, the hunt was on.

The next stop on my earplug journey happened right before Coachella 2015. In a discussion about earplugs, my friend Dylan suggested that I grab a pair of Earasers off of Amazon.

They offered a few different sizes, and I figured that I’d give it a go at the price of around $30. I received the earplugs and immediately fell in love with them. They didn’t fit perfectly but the material they were made out of was much more comfortable and I didn’t notice any issues after wearing them throughout the entire day or night. I ended up losing that pair accidentally and decided that if the previous size (Medium) was too large, that I should give the small a go. The smalls were perfect for my ears and I habitually used those at nearly every event that I attended. The sound quality was there, even though I desired slightly more bass, and I think that overall Earasers are my “go to” pair of earplugs if I have to order them last minute.

Arriving at the year 2016 and carrying an increased role inside the music community led me to think about my hearing even more.

I began to search deeper into potential products I could test and eventually stumbled upon ACS Custom. You might know artists like Armin van Buuren, Deadmau5, and Tiesto? Yeah, they have ACS Customs. You may even love other styles beyond electronic music coming from Pink Floyd, The Strokes, and Muse? Oh, that’s right, they do too. You know what, I’ll let their endorsement list speak for itself instead. All of these people have ACS Customs because they are constantly surrounded by music. Whether they are enjoying, performing, or doing something else at an event they are protecting their ears.

Different color options from ACS Customs!

So I found the right specifics as to what I needed from their site, chose glow in the dark green because duh, and proceeded to order my custom earplugs. Now, the difference between ACS Custom and the rest is that these aren’t just any one size fits all earbuds, instead, they are custom molded to your ear canal to give you the best hearing loss prevention. I had the option of having a mold made by a specialist here in San Diego, or to come in for an appointment at their location in Los Angeles.

I tend to be in LA quite a few times a month anyway, so I scheduled a meeting up there to get the molds made. The entire process took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. There was a nice goo that was injected into my ear canal, it set for a few minutes and then was removed. I was given a pair of their one size fits all earbuds to use while my ACS Customs were being produced.

This is the custom molding process. Photo Credit: CNET
It took a few weeks but just in time for the beginning of the festival season I received a package in the mail.

Inside was a pair of my ACS Customs tucked away in a sweet carrying case with cleaning tools and more. I tested them to make sure they glowed in the dark, and then placed them in my ears to see how the fit was. They include a cream in case the fit is a bit tight at first but I honestly didn’t need it for a proper fit right out of the package.

Since receiving them I have been able to test them out at Beyond Wonderland SoCal, and also have worn them out at nightclubs on a multitude of occasions. Never have I experienced a problem with hearing the music that was playing, the sound quality is practically perfect, and sometimes I even forget that I’m wearing them. One of the best benefits is that while wearing them I can actually hold full conversations with people in the middle of a crowd just fine as compared to before.

ACS Custom Pro 17’s

I honestly hope that reading my account sparks some sort of interest in you to either begin exploring or continue on your progress in protecting your hearing. I would be at a loss if I was to lose my hearing, and I know that many of you would feel the same. You can’t really put an actual price on hearing, but if I can reduce my risk of losing it any amount of money is worth that to me.

2017 Update:

I have had nothing but a positive experience with ACS Custom since the publishing of this article in April of 2016. The earplugs have been absolutely comfortable, and almost unnoticeable at times when I’ve covered the many festivals and events for the site. I still recommend at least grabbing a pair of Etymotics or Earasers if you can’t spring for the ACS Customs, but continue to keep your hearing in mind when you head out for the night!

 Recommended Earplugs:

  1. ACS Customs – You can grab them HERE, please note that these do take some time to manufacture because each pair is custom to your ear canal. They hold onto your molds for 5 years, in which if you need to re-order in the future they have you on file. I suggest ordering the ACS Custom Pro 17‘s. That is what I use every event and you can select any color you’d like!
  2. Earasers – I swore by these for almost a year before making the jump to custom earplugs. I highly suggest these to anyone who wants to spend ~$30 on them. I have tried both the Medium and Small sizes and ended up thinking that the small version fit my ear canal better. Your mileage may vary but these are some of the best in my opinion.
    (Earasers Size Medium – $40)
  3. Etymotics – These were my go to brand up until I purchased Earasers. I still have quite a few pairs of these, and I bring my extras to events for people who forgot or don’t have a pair of their own. They only run from $10 to $15 on Amazon, so there is really no excuse to not upgrade from foam plugs to these ones.
    (Etymotic ER20 – $12.99) (Etymotic ER20XS – $20)
  4. Alpine Hearing Protection – Another brand that makes earplugs. I personally have not tested them but they come with high ratings from many of my friends and people I attend events with.
    (Alpine Hearing Protection – $20)
  5. Foam Plugs – I always have a pair of these on me as extras just in case something goes wrong and I forget or lose my other plugs. They can squish in your wallet and you can normally even grab a pair of these at any medical tent at a festival. I’ve also seen these handed out at nightclubs for their bottle service patrons, so worst case scenario you know you can find a pair somewhere around there.
Grant Gilmore’s authoritative voice as a media professional lends credibility not common to EDM journalism. As the founder of EDM Identity he has effectively raised the bar on coverage of the past decade’s biggest youth culture phenomenon. After ten years of working for nonprofit organization Pro Player Foundation, Gilmore launched EDM Identity as a media outlet offering accurate informative coverage of the rave scene and electronic music as a whole. Although they cover comprehensive topic matter, they have taken special care in interviewing the likes of Armin van Buuren, Adventure Club, Gorgon City, Lane 8 and Afrojack. In addition to household names, they have also highlighted unsung heroes of the industry through their ID Spotlight segment. Whether he’s covering it or not, you can expect to find Grant Gilmore attending the next big electronic music event. To find out what’s next on his itinerary, follow him via the social links below.

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