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Are Custom-Fit Musician Earplugs Worth the Cost?

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Hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process for a lot of the elderly. Almost half of those over the age of 65 experience a certain degree of hearing loss. The majority of age-related hearing loss can be treated effectively using hearing aids. 

Apart from naturally occurring, age-related hearing loss, the next most common form is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This is a sensorineural type of hearing loss and it refers to damage to stereocilia (tiny hair cells in the ears). Excessive noise levels cause powerful vibrations in these hair cells, leading to damage. 

Unfortunately, stereocilia can’t be replaced and don’t regrow once damaged. Permanent damage causes hearing loss of varying degrees. Short but intense noises or repeated exposure to loud noises can cause damage to stereocilia. 

A remarkable 17% of adults between the ages of 20 and 69 have experienced permanent hearing loss from noise exposure. 

Musicians are much more likely to experience NIHL due to continual exposure to loud and intense noise. In fact, their chances of developing NIHL are four times higher than a member of the public. They are also 57% more likely to get tinnitus, which is a continuous ringing in the ears. The hearing loss or hearing problems experienced by musicians are often recognized after the main damage has taken place. It’s vital that they take preventative action to reduce the risk of incurring hearing loss. 

How severe is NIHL?

People can experience different levels of NIHL. Hearing loss is measured in decibels and can be categorized from mild to profound. 

  • Mild: 25-40 dB hearing loss.
  • Moderate: 41-65 dB hearing loss. 
  • Severe: 66-90 dB hearing loss.
  • Profound: More than 90 dB hearing loss. 

People are recommended to avoid exposing themselves to any sounds that are above 85 decibels. However, the length of exposure, how often someone is exposed, and how close they are to the sound also have a big impact. Continuous exposure to sounds below 85 decibels can cause you to develop hearing loss. 

To give this some context, here are some examples of common sounds alongside their decibel levels:

  • Jet engine: 140 dB
  • Ambulance siren: 120 dB
  • Live rock concert: 110 dB
  • Motorcycle: 100 dB
  • Power tools: 90 dB
  • Heavy traffic: 80-90 dB
  • Vacuum cleaner: 70 dB 
  • Conversation: 50 dB
  • Breathing: 10 dB

If musicians are continually exposed to music at high decibel levels, it becomes understandable why so many experience hearing loss and tinnitus. 

Symptoms of NIHL

For very low levels of hearing loss, symptoms might not be easily recognizable. In other circumstances, you’ll experience symptoms immediately. Cases vary from musician to musician. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • You struggle to understand what people are saying even though you can hear.
  • You have pain in your ears.
  • You are talking loudly or shouting without realizing it.
  • You have tinnitus. This could be recognized by experiencing a ringing, whooshing, or buzzing sound in your ears. 

If you have any of these symptoms, you should consider consulting a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) for a hearing test

Treatment for NIHL

Unfortunately, most NIHL is permanent. The most effective treatment is wearing prescribed hearing aids, but many preventative measures can be taken. The most crucial way to manage hearing loss is through prevention. Wear hearing protection where possible, avoid loud noises, turn the music down, and be mindful of the potentially harmful noises in your environment. 

Custom-fit earplugs

As a musician, despite your best efforts, it can be extremely difficult to avoid loud noises in the long-term. Custom-fit earplugs are a popular safety measure adopted by many musicians. While most people acknowledge the value of protecting your ears, custom-fit earplugs come at a much higher price than standard versions. Many go for the cheaper option as they don’t see any value in expensive custom-fit earplugs. 

For once-off or occasional use, disposable earplugs are a perfect choice. However, for musicians, it’s important to look at things a little differently. 

Custom-fit earplugs are specially designed to block out harmful background noise while enabling you to hear important factors such as speech and music. The voluminous booming is absorbed yet you can pick up on the finer details. They can be custom designed to provide optimal protection for your typical surroundings. 

When it comes to comfort, there is no comparison. Custom-fit earplugs are much more comfortable. If you’re wearing them for extended periods, custom plugs remain comfortable throughout.

Are they worth it?

As someone who’s so vulnerable to NIHL yet who’s hearing is so vital to their way of life, it’s important to get your priorities in line. When it comes to your health, it’s worth investing a little extra. Besides, custom-fit earplugs don’t cost a life-altering amount per year.

Contact us

For more information about hearing loss and the potential treatments available, don’t hesitate to contact Nu-Life Hearing Centre today: 905-697-3838.