Hearing protection is not the sexiest topic for most people.
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But a very important one. Loud sounds do damage your hearing—this is a fact. Once that damage is done, doctors can't fix you.
Science is promising that one day we will be able to repair the damage, but we just aren't there yet. You can get a hearing aid. That's about it.
Rather than screw up your hearing and listen to them ring (Google "Tinnitus" if you want to know what I'm talking about) until science figures out a solution, it makes a lot more sense to just keep your hearing healthy to begin with.
Keeping your muscles and heart healthy is hard. You need to deprive yourself of food you want to eat and sweat it out often at the gym. But, you can get fat and fit over and over again.
Your ears don't work like that. Keeping them healthy is simple and much, much easier: just wear earplugs when you're around loud stuff. I just keep them on my keychain so I don't have to remember to bring them. But, this simplicity comes at a cost. Every time you forget to protect yourself, you lose a little bit of your hearing that you never get back.
So, it makes sense that you would want functional, cost-effective and discrete earplugs if you give a damn about your health.
Earplugs basically have two jobs:
1. Don't interfere with whatever it is I'm trying to do.
2. Keep my hearing safe.
Most cheap foam ear plugs are great for sleeping or travel, but they violate rule #1. If I'm trying to understand someone at a loud bar, listen to a concert, or play in a loud group they actually work too well. They block out a lot of the crucial midrange and high frequencies so everything sounds very muddled and bassy.
The other side of the spectrum is custom molded earplugs. You need to go to an audiologist and get fitted for them. They work well and sound stunning. That performance comes at a cost. Expect to pay a few hundred bucks for molded earplugs.
There is a middle ground has emerged and that's what I recommend for most people. There are brands of earplugs emerging that are optimized for musicians who need hearing protection, but need to hear some of the high frequencies at a reasonable cost.
Some of the middle ground options rock and others are terrible. I've used 7 different brands in the last 5 years.
The brand I recommend now is called Soundtight. They're available on Amazon (currently $21.99) and they're the best option under $30 I've found. I do have one criticism of the carrying case, but this doesn't affect their performance at all. If you watch my video below, you'll sell a little trick I use to fix the problem with the case.
If you don't want to drop $350 on custom fitted plugs, just go get these. The reviews beyond my own are very positive and the company offers an excellent guarantee. Don't like them and they'll give you a full refund. Check it out:
If you still aren't convinced and want to hear exactly why I like these so much in particular or want to see a product demo, I did a review of them. You can see it at the video link below or get the audio as a podcast.
GET SOUNDTIGHT EARPLUGS HERE: amzn.to/2arsxuW
Prefer something else? I'd love to know. Tell me in the comments.
*Update August 22, 2016: To clarify, tinnitus itself is not hearing damage. It is a (very annoying) symptom that can indicate the presence of many problems, hearing loss being one of them. The reader who emailed me about it pointed out that his tinnitus is a symptom of his diabetes, not hearing loss. Earplugs don't help if your blood sugar is spiraling out of control.
Get yourself to a doctor if you have any health concerns. This is a bass player's personal website, not medical advice. Self-diagnosing with stuff you find on Google is a bad idea!