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Earplugs some more



I just thought I'd wade into this earplug discussion. It gives me a chance
to finally use something that I learned many moons ago in University.

First I'm glad that you all agree that earplugs are a smart move. You
wouldn't go out without your sunglasses on a bright day would you? So why
would you trash your ears by not protecting them? And the ears can go in a
matter of hours. Back in the neolithic when I went to high school it was a
macho thing to have your ears ringing.

Frequency stuff: Dr Mike is right about the yellow foam plugs (which also
come in green and orange) - they don't attenuate all frequencies equally.
The response of the ear is roughly a a U shaped curve, meaning that high and
low frequencies of equal intensities (measured in dB, a measure of the
energy in the sound, how the sound is percieved is measured in phons (not
positive about this, working from memory) which will have a different dB
value for different frequencies) are not heard as easily as midrange
frequencies, which due to no evolutionarily coincidence, is where the human
voice sits in the aural spectrum. (Women tend to have a slightly higher
frequency of peak sensitivity that some researchers claim is centered on the
frequency of a baby's cry.) 

The yellow plugs filter out the high frequencies more for a couple of
reasons. 1)They're intended for industrial settings (my source for 'em)
which often have a lot of high frequency noise. 2) The highs are easier to
filter since a lot of the lows are heard through conduction by the bones in
the head. 3) It's the highs that make all those crop circles in the little
hairs in your ears that are hooked to the nerves that are actually doing the
hearing for you. 

As someone else pointed out for some medium bucks you can get some high tech
plugs that have a flat response. If you're a working musician they're
probably worth it. If you just go to a lot of gigs the yellow ones are
probably OK because: 
1) There's a good chance that the sound is being mixed by someone who's
hearing is already damaged - There's a story about a club in Boston where
the house soundman was literally deafening the patrons because his hearing
was so shot that when he had the mix sounding OK to him he had the sound so
far from a flat response that the customers were starting to lose the same
frequencies as he already had. So it's not like the plugs are skewing a
perfect mix in most cases.  
2) After the first song (if you're not wearing plugs) you already have a
temporary threshold shift. That's why the band always sounds loudest when
they start. That's also what gives you the ringing in your ears.  If the
ringing doesn't go away in a day or two it's no longer a temporary shift. So
don't complain that you can only enjoy music when it's loud because after
that first song it will seem just as loud with the plugs in as it does
without them. You can still get that colon massaging bass rumble and you
won't have a sound hangover in the morning.

Speaking as someone who has very marginal tinnitus, just enough to scare me
into always using my plugs, wear the damn things!

best,
jfb