American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
Certified Member

Audiology Hearing Aids Speech Pathology

Custom Ear Plugs for Musicians
& Other Professionals


Whether you're into Mozart or Metallica, if you ruin your hearing, the music's over.

Perhaps Bach is your forte. It could be you like to march along with Sousa. Or maybe you just want to bang on your drum all day at ear-shattering volumes. Whatever your taste in music, every musician shares a common problem: your hearing is at risk.

Don't think that if you avoid the sheer volume of rock or brass bands that you're in the clear. Even the piccolo generates sound levels up to 112 dB -- roughly equivalent to a jackhammer at 30 feet. This high volume can, over time, result in moderate to severe hearing loss and/or risk of tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The ER-15 filter is an acoustically tuned ear mold that was developed for musicians. It attenuates (reduces) the sound equally across all frequencies by 15 dB. This means you hear your music accurately, but at a safer level. For example, if the sustained sound level is 100 dB, you'll hear the music at 85 dB. According to OSHA, this is a safe level for eight hours of continuous exposure. You also avoid the occlusion effect -- sounding like your voice or instrument is in a barrel -- common to generic, over-the-counter earplugs.

The ER-25 is your ear mold if you're into ear-splitting volume. It provides 25 dB attenuation -- 60% more than the ER-15.

The earmold is custom-fitted to your ear (the shape of every person's ears is different) to provide the ultimate in comfort, fit and acoustics. If music turns you on, your hearing is your most precious resource.

Custom-fitted earplugs

Stock earplugs for online purchase

  • Designed to provide moderate attenuation at all frequencies
  • Sound quality is clearer and more natural
  • Fidelity of the original sound is preserved
  • Fatigue associated with noise exposure is reduced
  • The world doesn't sound muffled

Limitations of Non-Vented, Solid Earplugs

    Problem 1:

      Regardless of their construction, solid earplugs produce 10 to 20 dB of high frequency attenuation. The result is that people often reject them because they can't hear speech clearly.

    Problem 2:

      Solid earplugs make the wearer's own voice sound hollow (known as the occlusion effect).

    Problem 3:

      Many people risk their hearing by either wearing earplugs loosely or wearing no protection at all so they will be able to hear voices, machinery or music more clearly.

Who Can Benefit from the ER-15, ER-20 & ER-25 Earplugs?

Those who are exposed to 90-120 dB sound levels for various time periods and need to hear accurately:

  • Musicians
  • Dentists
  • Traders
  • Pilots
  • Airline personnel who do not require maximum attenuation
  • Recording engineers
  • Sound crews
  • Most industrial workers
  • Machinists
  • Restaurant and dance club employees
  • Rock music listeners

Those whose hearing may not be at risk, but who prefer to hear without discomfort:

  • Airplane and auto travelers
  • Flight attendants
  • Rock music listeners
  • Spectators at sporting events
  • Persons with tinnitus
  • Persons with high frequency hearing loss who reject conventional ear protection because they cannot hear speech clearly
  • Persons with an abnormal sensitivity to loud sound.

Theory and Design of a Flat Response Attenuator

    A flat-response attenuator must have a frequency response that follows the shape of the natural frequency response of the open ear, but at a reduced level. Both the ER-15 and ER-25 use a diaphragm, similar to a passive speaker cone, to achieve the desired response curve. The ER-20 uses a tuned resonator and acoustic resistor. To reduce the occlusion effect, a deep seal of the plug in the second bend of the ear canal is necessary.


    In general, ER-15 attenuators are designed for environments where the A-weighted sound pressure level is 105 dB or less. ER-25 attenuators are for use in environments above 105 dB and below 120 dB. The attenuations shown in the above graph are for the average ear. The attenuations achieved when these attenuators are properly in place is at least 10 dB of protection for the ER-15, 15 dB for the ER-20, and 20 dB of protection for the ER-25.

Safe Exposure Levels

    Noise-induced hearing loss is a function of exposure time, the average noise level, and the peak level of very loud sounds. Some people seem to be more susceptible to hearing loss than others, so that protection on the basis of an average time and sound level exposure will only protect the "average" person. The following table includes data for the more conservative 85 dB equal energy (EE) approach as well as the U.S. OSHA standard. We assume that at least 10 dB of protection for the ER-15, 15 dB of protection for the ER-20, and 20 dB of protection for the ER-25 is achieved in most ears with these attenuators in place.

    Note: The ER-15, ER-20 and ER-25 earplugs are not intended for maximum attenuation. For that application, conventional foam or fully sealed premolded hearing protectors are recommended. For further information about sound levels and ear protection, a recommended reference is Noise & Hearing Conservation Manual by Berger, Ward, Morrill & Royster, American Industrial Hygiene Association.

For further information about High Fidelity Hearing Protection
contact Michele Wilson, Ph.D. Click here for online purchase.

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Audiology Hearing Aids Speech Pathology
Certified Member of American-Speech-Hearing Association
Fellow of the American Academy of Audiology

4010 Barranca, Suite 220 (at Culver), Irvine, California 92604
Phone: (949) 857-6051 Fax: (949) 857-0941