So you want to buy ear plugs…

By | September 15, 2013
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The other day a friend asked me, “So I get that I should probably be wearing hearing protection, but I don’t know what makes a product good. I’ve never done this before – what should I be looking at when I’m shopping for ear plugs?”
It’s a great question. If you’ve gotten to this point you know that you don’t want to have ringing ears after a concert, but who has time to go through in depth audiology research to make an informed purchase? Fortunately for this friend and yourself, you know the founder of a concert hearing protection company who’s already done that research.
So what do I look for in a set of ear plugs? For me it all starts and ends with…
Sound Quality
The key to this is simple – an ear plug that suppresses sound evenly across frequencies. Foam ear plugs are terrible at this, which creates that muffled sound. Even a bigger brand like Hearos sells “filtered” plugs, but they’re actually closer to foam ear plugs in sound quality. That’s what I love about DownBeats and other high fidelity solutions. Sound suppression is smooth, and the highs and lows come through evenly. No matter how smooth it is though, what you hear depends on…

Sound Suppression
This is how much the overall level of sound, on average, is reduced. Foam ear plugs are 25 decibels – a little much for my taste. Some other high fidelity ear plugs are only in the 10-12 range, and for the clubs and shows I go to that’s not enough. DownBeats reduce 18 decibels, moderating a 110 dB raged out concert to 92 dB – still pretty loud, but at a level I can party to for an extended period. And if I’m listening for hours, I definitely need…

Comfort
I want to forget that I even have ear plugs in at all. My personal preference is a soft material with a shallow insertion that doesn’t hit my inner ear. I tried out the Etymotics ER-20s, a popular high fidelity plug, and to me they went too deep in my ear and were uncomfortable. I can wear DownBeats for hours without them hurting, and indeed I do forget they’re in at times. Of course, I also don’t want them noticeable by others…

Profile
While I’m not ashamed to tell anyone I wear hearing protection, I also don’t want something hanging out of my ear putting it on display. Foam ear plugs are the worst at this; other brands like Etymotics also poke out more than I’d like. I enjoy DownBeats for their low profile. I can see how some might think that the white is a little more noticeable than they’d like, and I can see that point of view, but I don’t have a problem with that. If you’re curious though, we do plan on adding some flesh-toned options further down the line. Of course, step one is getting them to the show…

Portability
Before I started DownBeats, having my ear plugs on me was always another thing to remember. Now I just have them on my keys and I’m ready to go at every show. And trust me, there’s a lot of shows. And if you lose them, you don’t want to worry about…

Price
For an item you’re usually wearing in dark places and might lose, you don’t want to spend a ton of money. I definitely don’t want to spend $100 on customs – $9.99 for DownBeats is just right.

So there you have it, your buyer’s guide to concert ear plugs. It’s all about the experience – make sure your hearing protection is there to enhance it.

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