The music critic wears hearing protection during the shows – you should too


MINNEAPOLIS — After enduring three straight nights next to Ted Nugent’s giant stack of Marshall amplifiers, I received a gift from the guitar hero: earplugs.

The Nuge can be deaf in some subjects, but not in hearing. After all, he is partially deaf in one ear. Protecting your ears is essential. He opened a drawer in a roadie case and handed me my first pair of plugs – Super Sonic II.

That was in 1976 and I’ve been wearing earplugs ever since. Not the foam ones; they block sound. No, the most sophisticated. Like those old Super Sonic IIs, inch-long rimmed rubber with a small metal diaphragm to reduce high frequencies. They may sound silly – like something protruding from Herman Munster stuck in your ear canal – but they serve an invaluable purpose.

My ears don’t ring when I hit the pillow after a rock concert. Or the next morning.

I’m not going to get scientific and talk about how rock concerts usually sound at 105-110 decibels, which is way louder than recommended. Good earplugs — not the ones available for free at Minneapolis clubs mandated by a 2014 ordinance — let you hear music clearly but cut out all frequencies, from treble to bass, that can cause ringing and damage. permanent auditory.

High-volume high frequencies have punished countless musicians — Pete Townshend of Who, Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, and even Barbra Streisand, to name a few — resulting in tinnitus (a constant ringing in your ears).

Over 45 years and 9,000 gigs after my close encounter with the Nuge, my ears are fine, according to my audiologist, although some readers may disagree.

I wear earplugs to every gig (and at sporting events) unless it’s all acoustic instruments. There’s no need to be macho or to be ashamed of it. Smart musicians protect themselves with custom earplugs (molded to fit their ears) or in-ear monitors whose volume they can control.

I went from Super Sonic II to earplugs that were more comfortable, sensitive and less annoying – and less stupid. And they have sexier names like Eargasm and Earasers. Sure beats words like tinnitus and hearing aids.

Splurge if you like custom molded earplugs, which usually start at around $100 a pair. There are other quality reusable prophylactics available at modest prices that will allow you to hear all the necessary nuances at gigs without your ears ringing afterwards.

Here is a sample, with prices listed by the manufacturer.

Earrings. My favorite plugs for several years, they are small, transparent silicone, contoured for your ears, with a small filter and a small pull tab to remove them. Available in small, medium and large, they are discreet and comfortable. Caveat: I dropped them without realizing it, leaving me with an orphan earplug. Reduction: 19 decibels. $49.99,

Vibes Hi Loyalty. Despite being turned down by “Shark Tank” in 2017, these caps from a Minneapolis-based company have thrived. With a round silicone ball on the end of a straight plastic stick, they have a special filter. “You look like you have a plastic piece of jewelry in your ear,” the guy next to me said at a recent concert. Each comes with three interchangeable sizes for each ear. Reduction: 15 decibels. $26.95,

Fender Professional Hi-Fi. A product of the famous guitar maker, these remind me of my old Super Sonic II, except they are clear, not tan, with straight flange silicone plugs with a little plastic pull. With two tips of interchangeable sizes, they fit perfectly but look a little outrageous. Their cool carrying case looks like an oversized guitar pick. Reduction: 20 decibels. $29.99,

Earos One. Designed by a former director of the MIT Acoustics and Vibratory Lab, these black-rimmed cones fit perfectly. At the outer end is a flat black plastic “concha pad” to help secure them specifically in your left and right ear. Looks like you’re wearing headphones. Comes with a set of extra cones. Reduction: 17 decibels. $40,

EarLabs dBud. These Swedish-designed sockets are ambitious. Their particularity lies in two settings: Louder is clear (reduction of 11 decibels), louder is slightly muted (reduction of 24 decibels). These black silicone and foam devices fit like headphones, attached by a thin, boring black cord so you won’t lose them. They come with three pairs of small, medium and large foam tips. The soft rubber carrying case doesn’t close snugly, so the sockets can get dusty. $59,

Fans enjoy the atmosphere during day three of Lollapalooza Chile 2019 at Parque O’higgins on March 31, 2019 in Santiago, Chile.


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