Nocturnal Wonderland 2019 Crowd Rail
Photo Credit: Juliana Bernstein for Insomniac Events

If you lose your hearing, you’ll miss out on so much amazing music. Here’s the 411 on earplugs and hearing protection options ahead of festival season!


While I promise not to get too science-y on you, let’s cover two important facts about your hearing and why earplugs are important to wear. First, any damage from loud sounds is permanent as the hairs that vibrate in your ear to capture sounds never grow back. This also means that damage is cumulative – the more shows and festivals you attend, the more likely you will have hearing loss.

Second, any sustained sounds over 90dB will begin to result in damage after two hours. Most concerts are over 100dB and electronic shows tend to be even higher on this scale. And if you happen to be a bass zombie standing right in front of the woofers, you don’t even want to know the decibel levels!

Sorry if this sounds scary, but it’s just the reality of our scene that is filled with large sound systems and booming bass. However, it’s a reality that is easy to mitigate with earplugs and even the most basic options will give you some needed protection.

There are four key things to consider when selecting the protection that is right for you: Comfort, Fit, Sound Quality, and Price.

How you stack rank these will be different for each individual, but let me go into some detail on why I put them in this order. I consider comfort the most important because, let’s face it, if you aren’t comfortable, you won’t wear them. As far as fit, if they don’t fit well, they won’t actually protect your hearing very well either. Allowing unfiltered sound through because of a poor fit practically renders them useless, so be sure they fit and form a seal in your ear canal.

Sound quality is next because you most certainly want the best sound and not simply something muffled, right? Last is price because you shouldn’t skimp here; you’ll get the picture after reading the reviews below. That said, even the cheapest options help!

When it comes to earplugs the more things change, the more they stay the same.

When we last reviewed a selection of earplugs, we came up with a clear winner, ACS Custom, and that one hasn’t changed. It’s also among the most expensive, but there’s a reason for that due to the nature of the earplugs and how long they last. And in the mid-tier pricing, there are many more options than two years ago, but the options don’t differ all that much. Read on for some of our favorites that are available!


ACS Custom PRO molds with brown filters 2

For the best comfort, sound, and protection, ACS Custom USA provides the clear winner, for a price.

If you go to more than two festivals a year, even a couple of shows a month, and especially if you’re a DJ, these earplugs are well worth the investment. Sure, they are expensive (around $200) but think of how much you spend on the events and you’ll realize that these are worth it. They’ll also last around five years, so that’s about $40/year – a bargain!

So why spend around $200 on customs? They feel and sound amazing! Most other options will allow some sound leakage because they cannot create a full seal. No one plug can fit every ear. That leakage is mildly dangerous, but also notably reduces sound quality.

“How are these better?” You might ask.

The fit is perfect and that means that you can wear these all day long and forget about them. You’ll need to get an impression of your ear for these. If there is a local ACS office nearby you can get them done there (email ahead for an appointment), otherwise, you have to go to an audiologist.

Beyond fit, the sound is perfectly reduced equally for all frequencies – another thing missing from most other options. This makes for a reduced, but not at all degraded, sound. And you can talk to your friends! Seriously, I’ve never worn earplugs that allow conversation in the club so easily.

If you buy these, a few tips:

  • Go with the PRO17 filters. You can exchange filters for free if not satisfied or buy others to swap out. The PRO17s are what a lot of DJs and sound crews wear.
  • I suggest the $10 add on grips. You can go without them, but for me, having a grip to handle is critical. You don’t want to lose $200 earplugs because you skimped on $10 grips.
  • Skip the glow-in-the-dark colors since you’ll likely leave these in the case all the time so they’ll never actually glow (they need light exposure to charge the glow)

Check out their different products via ACSCustomUSA.com, and use promo code ‘EDMIDENTITY’ for 15% off your purchase.

ACS Custom x EDM Identity IG Twitter Banner


 

Not willing to spend for customs? There are plenty of more reasonably priced options that will give you decent protection.

For a very reasonable price (about $25) I’d recommend the EarPeace HD Concert as a great choice. These use a tried and true multiple flange design that is generally comfortable for most that wear them. Various brands with this design provide nearly the same comfort and sound quality, so I recommend these because they come as a set of three; so if you lose one, you still have a set!

The very best bargain in the reusable category is the Etymotic Universal Fit. These are about $15 and come with three sets of ear tips: standard, large, and foam for those that like a little less pressure in their ear. And these aren’t your standard disposable foam, they contain a full filter, making them a higher quality solution than disposable at a really good price.

There are a number of others in this category, and here’s a quick take on three of them:

  • Earasers Musicians Plugs – the few friends I have that wear these swear by them! But you have to really get the right size and then positioning them in your ear can be finicky. These are the only non-custom model I’ve seen that have a specific right and left designation which can make putting them in at a dark club tricky.
  • Eargasm Earplugs – if you regularly share music on Facebook or Instagram you’ve likely been bombarded with ads for Eargasms. These are actually really terrific non-custom earplugs, but I didn’t find these to be better or more comfortable than less expensive options. However, if you are unsure about your size, these do come with pairs in two sizes, so you can have a second pair as a backup or to give to a friend!
  • LiveMus!c HearSafe – These were my very first upgrade from disposables and they served me well! But, again, you can get more for less with other options these days. And these come with two sets at two different reduction levels (29dB and 23dB) so you could have a backup set and that might be worth it for you.

Foam Earplugs
Foam Earplugs

Finally, the tried and true foam earplugs are still a great value – and you can be a hero by carrying some extras!

If you do nothing else to protect your ears, or you are the type to lose things all the time, do a bulk buy of Foam Earplugs and you’ll be all set. I like the ones with the flange at the end as the fit better and are easier to remove when you are done. Despite wearing the customs, I always have a few pairs of these on me just in case – and I often give them out to others without protection. Be a hero, carry foam earplugs for your friends!


The bottom line is that you need to protect your ears and even the most basic protection can go a long, long way to assuring you can rave till the grave – and still hear the music!


Jared, aka JSkolie, was introduced to electronic music in the 1990’s by way of Orbital. He raved in parks and fields in South Florida where the entirety of the production was a DJ in a box truck. Now living in NYC, he attended his first Above & Beyond show in 2016 and his life has never been the same. Jared has been energized by the Trance community and its PLUR ethos. He is a supporter of harm reduction and is a DanceSafe volunteer. Jared enjoys endurance events and has danced for 12-hours straight while often recovering from raves with bike rides just as long. Or longer.

1 COMMENT

  1. Great article. I actually have a pair of Big Ear custom earplugs that I wear in concerts and music festivals. Well, I only started wearing earplugs in 2015 because I had some hearing problems but now it’s all good. You just really have to protect yourself.

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