I started thinking this diatribe when I ran into a jazz
musician friend and asked him, “How are you?”, and he replied, “I
just got a new set of earplugs.” He realized that wouldn’t be an
exciting part of most people’s weeks, but for him being able to
both talk to the other musicians in his band and listen to what
they were playing without having his ears damaged was a major
improvement in his life.
I’ve run it by a lot of musician friends since, and haven’t
heard anything that seems like a valid counterargument to me.
Naturally, this has done nothing to change the number
of places I’m glad I have my earplugs along, or sorry I don’t have
them with me.
I basically think that if both the performers and the audience
need earplugs to listen to the music safely, it’s too loud.
I understand that if you’re playing acoustic music in a large
venue, it might be a good idea for some of the performers to need
the earplugs so that the audience has a chance to hear the whole
But if it’s amplified music in a normal sized room, there’s no
reason the volume level can’t be kept to one that doesn’t do
permanent damage to anyone’s ears.
So what kind of earplugs do I need?
For casual listening, those cheap
foam ones that come in boxes of 200 are probably good enough,
although if you spend a lot of time listening to loud
music, you might need something better.
If you need to both hear conversations and listen carefully to
the loud music, you’re better off with something designed
specifically for that purpose. After being too close to a loud
cymbal crash in the band a year ago, I bought a pair of these.
If you buy directly from the
manufacturer, you can get a quantity discount on more than 4
pairs. I didn’t do that, but there have been a couple of times
when I wished my pair were in my backpack, and not in my tuba