Listen up: Tips for iPod and hearing safety

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If you’ve ever used standard foam earplugs, musician’s earplugs feel a bit odd at first. In addition to the fit—which is comfortable, but unusual in that most people have never worn a custom-fit earplug—the attenuation is also not what you might expect. For starters, unlike inexpensive foam earplugs, which reduce external sound by as much as 33dB, our musician’s earplugs provided only 15dB of noise reduction; we could still hear most sounds clearly. In addition, most of that audio did indeed sound normal; there was a slight amount of “muffling,” but overall things sounded like they should. As a result, the first impression we had was that the earplugs weren’t working very well. Yet they were doing exactly what they should: reducing audio levels enough to make listening safer, without making it sound as if they were reducing levels significantly.

Many music-focused audiologists also sell custom-fit in-ear-canal headphones and monitors, as well as custom earmolds for many of the in-ear-canal headphones mentioned above. For example, Musician’s Hearing Services sells custom-fit molds for Etymotic and Shure canalphones for $150 including services.

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The following sites have more information on preventing hearing loss:

  • Better Hearing Institute
  • E-A-R Hearing Conservation
  • Etymotic Research Library
  • National Hearing Conservation Association
  • An unfortunate irony is that those who love music the most often end up being unable to enjoy it. By listening too much, at volume levels that are too loud, the hardest-core fans find themselves denied the pleasures of music-listening itself. But nowadays, thanks to better understanding of the causes of noise-induced hearing loss, as well as effective technologies for protecting your ears, there’s no reason anyone has to endure this curse. Still, it’s up to you to put this knowledge and technology to use—and the sooner you do, the better your chances of being able to rock out into old age.

    [ Mathew Honan is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. Dan Frakes is a senior editor at Macworld .

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