In August 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that approximately 5.2 million 6–19 year olds and 26 million 20–69 year olds suffered damage to their hearing. These statistics pertained specifically to those who experienced noises that were beyond levels considered safe, and unfortunately, resulted in permanent hearing loss. Today I’m spotlighting this issue because our ears are two very important assets, especially for musicians, and protecting them should always be a priority.
For guitar players, it’s easy to focus solely on the healthy functioning of our hands and fingers. Then, when bands and solo artists put on shows that fill the air with sounds that can be heard from a mile away, our concern for our hearing continues to take backseat as we become mesmerized by the performances of those on stage. Plainly and simply, live music is loud and can be very damaging to our ears.
My 11-year-old daughter also plays guitar and loves going to live concerts, like Joe Satriani, who came to town this past February. It wasn’t until she had an interest to attend shows with me that I became conscious of the importance of protecting our hearing. This is when my search for quality hearing protection began.
Most (if not all) of us know about those bulky, cumbersome, less-than-stylish headphones that are at one end of the product spectrum, as well as the fingertip-shaped and sized earplugs that muffle sounds on the opposite end of the spectrum. In the middle of these two product options are acoustic filters. These devices are small and discreet like earplugs, but are engineered to filter out harmful decibels while letting in sonic clarity. My daughter and I did a head-to-head comparison of Doppler Labs’s DUBS and Westone’s WR20 acoustic filters at the Joe Satriani concert mentioned earlier. Here’s a quick rundown of what we discovered.
The DUBS are black, one size non-adjustable earbuds with stylish color accents. While they fit me very comfortably, they were a bit large for my daughter. In addition to the very good sonic clarity, the DUBS are designed to reduce harmful noise by 12 dB, exponentially reducing volumes down to safe listening levels. They come in a plastic box that doubles as a carrying case.
The WR20, on the other hand, is available in blue, pink, or smoke grey, and includes a soft, zippered bag for storage. To allow consumers a more custom fit, they come with two different sized conical shaped silicone earplugs. The acoustic filters are removable and transferrable between the two size options. Since the majority of the earplugs sit inside the ear canal, they are less noticeable to others. Like the DUBS, the sonic clarity is very good, but there is a subtle difference—they sound slightly more muffled. This could be because the WR20 filters out more decibels than the DUBS (20 compared to 12).
Halfway through the concert, my daughter and I tried a DUBS in one ear and a WR20 in the other ear. By the end of the show, the ear that the DUBS was in felt fatigued (it took about 15 minutes for it to return to normal), and the ear that used the WR20 felt great (no fatigue at all).
In conclusion, we felt both brands and models of acoustic filters were great products; however, Westone’s WR20 appeared to be much more refined. The extra decibel protection, coupled with the better fit, make it our preferred choice. Comparable in price (retails for $20-$25 on Amazon.com), both products are definitely better than exposing your precious hearing to damaging volume levels, so get yourself a set of acoustic filters today. Take care of your hearing, take care of yourselves, and rock on!