Reviews by The Headphone Company

Hearing Protection: Universal vs. Custom Moulded EarPlugs

What’s wrong with conventional foam earplugs? Basically, they muffle speech and music. Conventional foam earplugs reduce sound more in the high frequencies than in the low and mid frequencies, which makes music and voices unclear and unnatural. Deeply-inserted foam earplugs not only muffle the sound, but can provide 30-40 dB of sound reduction when only a small amount may be needed - From a practical aspect they are harder to fit, harder to keep secure and often become dirty quickly also. So with foams discounted we are left with universal or custom moulded earplugs

Universal Earplugs

Universal Earplugs are a great cost effective quick fix - Something like the very common ER20 Musicians EarPlug at less than £10, make an ideal on-the-go hearing protector - They are designed to allow you to enjoy the fidelity of the music you are listening to whilst offering up to 20dB of protection

The graph below shows the dB reduction using an ER20 and also highlights the point above about using foam earplugs with an unbalanced attentuation

If having a universal is the best solution for you but 20dB is just too much you could also consider the EarSonics EarPlugs that offer 16dB of reduction

But what if you don’t always need the same level of protection? Alpine Hearing Protection will take care of this, they offer the MusicSafe Pro (includes 15, 17 & 18dB filters) and the MusicSafe Classic (includes 17 & 18dB filters) EarPlugs that offer on-the-fly exchangeable filters, both of which are under £20 per set

Custom Moulded Earplugs

Customs offer by far the greatest level of flexibility - With custom earplugs, being bespoke and moulded to your ear they will be the most comfortable, they’ll offer the best fit and are the best solution long-term. You will also find them easier to secure in the ear perfectly and not cause any discomfort when using for long periods

In addition, as they are custom made you can choose the manufacturer you wish to use but also what dB rating you need and who makes the actual filter - In most cases your earplug will also allow you to keep spare filters of the same or different ratings for on-the-fly adjustments! The most important item would be the filter though, ranging from 8dB to 27dB (average attenuations), all of which will offer different dB reduction curves, eg: Etymotic ER Filters offer a flat response (shown below) but reduced by 9, 15 or 25dB whereas ACS Pro filters typically offer more reduction as the frequency (Hz) increases

To view the full range of universal and custom moulded earplugs on our site: Click Here

Hearing Protection: When should I consider using EarPlugs?

So, when should you be using Hearing Protection?

Every day, we experience sound in our environment, such as the sounds from television and radio, household appliances, and traffic. Normally, we hear these sounds at safe levels that do not affect our hearing. However, when we are exposed to harmful noise - sounds that are too loud or loud sounds that last a long time - sensitive structures in our inner ear can be damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). These sensitive structures, called hair cells, are small sensory cells that convert sound energy into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged, our hair cells cannot grow back...

Being aware of decibel levels is an important factor in protecting your hearing, distance from the source of the sound and duration of exposure to the sound are also equally important. A good rule of thumb is to avoid noises that are "too loud" and "too close" or that last "too long"

Our previous posts highlight safe time limits, noise regulations and real life examples of dB levels all of which reinforces the above but ultimately highlights that you will not always know if you are damaging your ears - Care should always be taken in noisy environments never to exceed 80dB for more than 8 hours and that ideally exposure to any sound at 80dB should be limited or you should be protected! Over 80dB you should certainly be protected, be cautious of using the right level of protection and staying within the safe time limits also!

Whilst the law governs your workplace it doesn’t control you outside of that and so you are left to protect yourself, this could be something as simple as performing DIY whereby powertools will often have dB levels in excess of 90dB which with high exposure times will damage your hearing, or even motorcycle riding, other examples are shown below

To view the full range of universal and custom moulded earplugs on our site: Click Here

Hearing Protection: Safe Time Limits & dB Ratings

Some noises can damage our hearing irreparably in minutes or even seconds. Other noises we can withstand for longer, but are nonetheless just as destructive. Below you can see the noise volumes and how long we can bear them

You will notice that for every increase of 3dB you are effectively halving the exposure time, note that this is also showing that each increase of 3dB is actually doubling the volume!

To view the full range of universal and custom moulded earplugs on our site: Click Here

Hearing Protection: UK Law & Noise Regulations

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6 April 2006 (except for the music and entertainment sectors where they came into force on 6 April 2008)

The aim of the Noise Regulations is to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work, which could cause them to lose their hearing and / or to suffer from tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears)

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 replace the Noise at Work Regulations 1989

The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed!

To view the full range of universal and custom moulded earplugs on our site: Click Here

Hearing Protection: DJs - EarPlugs or In-Ear Monitors?

DJs are particularly vulnerable to Noise Induced Hearing Loss as they spend many hours in high ambient noise areas

The usual image we have of a DJ is of someone with headphones clasped tightly to one ear while they cue up or beat match the next track. There are a number of problems to deal with here. Our ears are intended to listen "in stereo" to give us a clear sound picture of our environment, if we try to listen to different signals in our ears, then the natural tendency is to turn up the one we are concentrating on - the monitor feed. If the DJ is already in a high noise area then the level in the headphone will have to be dangerously loud in order to be heard. Listening using one ear is not a safe way of monitoring. Other DJs use a loudspeaker for monitoring and this can be equally as bad because they have to overcome the high ambient sound before they can hear what they need to - In order to hear what is necessary, without risking hearing damage, it is important to achieve some isolation from the ambient sound. This could be achieved by using custom earplugs (20dB+) to reduce the ambient down to a safe(r) level, the DJ can then continue to mix how they are used to, headphones or monitor

Recent developments in hearing technology now also allow users to use In Ear Monitors (IEMs), similar to those worn by musicians, that fill the ear canal. These provide isolation that is as good as earplugs and will allow the user to hear their monitor mix with a much lower level at the eardrum. However, IEMs are not without their risks. The drivers used are capable of producing very high levels at the eardrum and so it is wise to use some sort of limiting device to protect your ears - This is where an AdaptEar comes in. It is designed to be easily adjusted to match the specific sensitivity of the IEM to provide a safe listening level, and contains a patent (applied for) peak limiting device which protects against acoustic shock and helps protect against long periods of high volume from the communications device. AdaptEar has a high level indicator LED which informs the user that the volume limit is being reached, protection is being implemented, and they should consider turning down the source. The video below shows the AdaptEar in action:

To view the full range of Hearing Protection on our site including the AdaptEar: Click Here. Our full range of custom IEMs can be found by: Clicking Here