I never used to wear them, but now I don’t see a show without ‘em. What am I talking about? That’s right, I’m talking about earplugs.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I see a lot of concerts. Last year I averaged just under one concert per week. As you may know, I have strong heavy metal tendencies, which means I not only see a lot of shows in general, but I also see a lot of loud shows. As a man who is studying to become a sound engineer and who knows how loud these shows are and how much damage can be caused by repeated exposure to this level of noise, I fully endorse the use of earplugs.
In my younger days, I used to unjustly mock people who wore earplugs at shows, doubting their virility and assuming that they were missing out on most of the great sounds they were being exposed to. Well, I was way off, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I started wearing earplugs over the summer of ’09, and I’m never going back. It eliminates any chance of having a ringing in your ears for the next day or two (or 4 if you just saw Airbourne @ the Capital Music Hall, ahem.), and the only strong effect it has on sound is to remove all of the inharmonic noise that’s being thrown at you.
A concert venue is just a big space filled with flat surfaces that make sound reflect and distort many times before they even reach your ears. Add crowd sounds to that, and you get your usual concert sound: Somewhat clear, but also very much covered by itself. While earplugs won’t kill all of this, they tend to make vocals a lot clearer (especially in metal), and they tone down the volume to a more human level.
For the richer/more dedicated concert enthusiast, you can also buy some professional-level form-fitting earplugs that are reputed to be even better for your long-term hearing.
Of course, I’d suggest earplugs to everyone who sees any loud show, not just concert addicts like myself. It’s just a smart move, seriously. There’s no harm in being preventive, especially with something as precious as hearing.
And that’s why earplugs are Bloody Underrated.
P.S.: They’re not just good for shows, you know. Motorcycle rides, loud workplaces…earplugs are the unsung hero of the hearing world!