Are you considering custom earplugs? For most people, the high cost of custom earplugs is a huge factor. What most people ask is, are they worth it?
Here's a look at some of the key benefits of custom earplugs. While the comfort of a custom molded fit is one huge pro, there are many more advantages to consider. This article will help you decide if those features are worth the expense of custom earplugs for you personally.
Let's look at the main benefits of custom earplugs — here's what we'll cover.
Ease of Use
Better Sound with Musicians Earplugs
Customization of Sound Protection
Fit and Longterm Comfort
A huge benefit to custom earplugs is simply that they are custom fit to you. Because they're made from an impression of your unique ear canals, they will fit more comfortably than almost all off the shelf options.
There's nothing trying to expand against your ear canal as in the foam earplugs. Nor are there flanges or other material trying to push against your ear canal to insure a seal or fit.
Custom earplugs simply fill your ear canal without adding extra pressure. The result of this is that they are much more comfortable, especially for long term use over hours or even a full day if necessary.
Consistent Ease of Use
Custom earplugs offer simple ease of use. There's only one way to insert them, and so long as you're putting the right earplug in the right ear, ease of use is a breeze.
You do need to have the plugs oriented in generally the right way, but customs generally orient themselves. Because they're custom molded to your ears, they want to go in one way and they essentially find that way as you insert them.
In addition, customs will insert to these same depth — they're fully seated or they're not. This makes their use pretty much fool proof.
The benefit of this is speed of use and the fact that once inserted, you get repeatable, identical protection. This experience is in contrast to universal earplugs such as flanged or foam earplugs, which can be inserted in different depths and thus offer inconsistent hearing protection.
Better Sound with Musicians Earplugs
There are two main types of custom earplugs:
Solid silicone custom earplugs
Musicians earplugs with acoustic filters
If you're a music photographer like me, or simply work in the music industry, I recommend the musicians earplugs for a few reasons. A big reason is sound quality.
Cheap earplugs make live music sound muffled and distorted. Musicians earplugs have specially designed filters that lower sound levels evenly, preserving the sound quality of live music.
There are various brands that make acoustic filters. Etymotic Research has pioneered high fidelity musicians earplugs and makes a wide range. They make the very well regarded ER-15 universal earplugs that I have recommended in the past (and personally used for years).
Other filters are made by Westone or ACS Customs. All of these serve the goal of safely lower noise levels and will preserve the overall sound of live music.
Customization of Sound Level Protection
This is actually one of the less obvious benefits of custom earplugs, but one feature I love with custom earplugs is the ability to customize the level of sound protection.
Customs with the aforementioned acoustic filters allow you to change the filters themselves. Most all of these filter manufacturers offer a range, from low at around -9dB reduction to -25dB reduction, as well as “solid” filters that offer around -33dB reduction.
You can therefore select the level of sound protection you need — from minimum to maximum, or somewhere in between. You can also change the filters yourself when the situation requires a different level of sound protection.
For example, you may want to consider different attenuation levels:
-33dB filters: Maximum protection (music festivals)
-25dB filters: High level protection (frequent exposure)
-15dB filters: Medium protection (infrequent use)
-9dB filters: Light protection
For all day events like music festivals, you may want the maximum level of noise protection and want go with solid -33dB filters. But for an event that has loud elements intermittently, you may be fine using -9dB or -15dB filters. Using lower attenuation ratings mean that it's easier to hear conversation or quieter moments if that's important for your job or function.
For professional music photographers, personally I would recommend -25dB filters in most cases.
While it never hurts to use a very high level of hearing protection, being able to tailor your experience simply by popping in a new set of filters is huge level up in your game.
Professional Cool Factor
This is certainly the very least important aspect of custom earplugs. But from crew guys to artists/musicians or just other photographers, custom earplugs are worth a few — if only a few — cool points.
Perhaps more essentially, it feels nice to know you're taking the best steps toward protecting your own hearing with custom earplugs. It's a great feeling knowing that you have professional grade hearing protection and that you simply have one more thing you don't have to worry about as a professional.
There you are, the live main benefits of using custom earplugs. For me, as a professional music photographer, they're an essential part of my photo bag. While I could do my job without them, I wouldn't want to be without them.
If you want to know more about the experience of getting custom earplugs, see my review of my 1of1 Customs that I received via MusiCares at ACL Festival.