I like to listen to music very quietly
-No One Ever
Let’s face it, we all like to crank the volume up on our favorite tracks. One of the reasons bass music has become so popular is because you can not only hear it, you can feel it– it’s the reason we go to festivals to experience our favorite artists on massive sound systems. In doing so, however, we unintentionally put our ears through a lot of abuse thus leading to hearing damage; I’m sure you can remember a time when you left the club / festival and your ears were ringing until the next day. This is a perfect example of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:
NIHL can be immediate or it can take a long time to be noticeable. It can be temporary or permanent, and it can affect one ear or both ears. Even if you can’t tell that you are damaging your hearing, you could have trouble hearing in the future, such as not being able to understand other people when they talk, especially on the phone or in a noisy room. Regardless of how it might affect you, one thing is certain: noise-induced hearing loss is something you can prevent.
Even though we don’t think of them often, our ears are very delicate, complex biological machines; they are comprised of a series of bones, membranes, and canals that house fragile, microscopic hair cell projections called ‘stereocilia.’ These stereocilia are able to bend under the pressure of incoming vibrations which in turn cause them to send signals to the brain that we recognize as “noise.” When these hair structures break from being worn out or bent too hard, they never regenerate. Ever. Gone for good. (You can read a more detailed description here). There are basically two ways to prevent NIHL in loud environments like the club or a rave: 1) move farther away from the speakers so the volume is less intense or 2) wear ear plugs. As a professional musician, I spend more time than most thinking about my hearing health and yet at 26 years old, I’ve still experienced some permanent hearing damage. I always like to stand towards the back as a listener (not just for hearing health but because the best sound is almost always riiiiight where the sound guy keeps his mixing board! Either that or 38% from the back wall of the room are usually choice listening spots) but even with all that I know and all the first hand experience I have with NIHL, I’ve never been able to reliably wear ear plugs. They’ve just never been comfortable and have always ruined the experience– what’s the point of going to a concert if you’re going to listen with the equivalent of two silicone foam fingers in your ears? So I’ve continued to take half-measures with my hearing… UNTIL LAST SUNDAY AT FOOL’S GOLD DAY OFF.
Someone finally recognized a way to fix most of the problems with ear plugs for concert-goers and that someone is DUBS. When I first read about them, I’ll admit I was skeptical. They claim to be 17-piece “acoustic filters” that use ” a proprietary combination of high and low pass filters that allow the DUBS to reduce volume while preserving the proper balance and clarity of the audio you hear.” I figured they could only be slightly better than the disposable hear-o’s I’m used to or perhaps almost as good as the $50 EARaser ear plugs I owned but hated shoving down my ear canal (they can get lost in there)… I was blown away. These ear plugs are a game changer.
The DUBS are designed beautifully. I usually have a hard time putting in ear plugs correctly (I’ve got weird ears!) but the DUBS just twisted in no problem. Not only that but they also sit flush with the ear instead of sticking out Frankenstein style… they have a futuristic, Phantasy Star Online kind of vibe to ’em which I did not mind one bit. Once they’re in you’ll definitely notice a decrease in volume but its not what you might expect– the filters are designed with the Fletcher-Munson Curves in mind so what you end up with is a more even loudness across the frequency spectrum than you would with traditional ear plugs. I thought they even sounded better than the EARasers which claim to do the same thing because the DUBS seemed to be more dynamic in their attenuation– I got more consistent results from different listening positions with the dubs than from any other ear plug I’ve tried before. At very loud volumes, the DUBS almost became transparent except for the fact that there was significantly less pressure in my ears. I could feel the bass, I could hear every note perfectly (I could even vaguely understand the people around me) but that uncomfortable feeling you get in your head from standing next to the speaker was absent. Even better, when I left the show and removed the ear plugs, my ears were not ringing. According to Fritz Lanman, chairman of DUBS:
The DUBS really sing in loud EDM environments. My cofounder and my first experience of the prototype was Fatboy Slim in the Sahara Tent at Coachella – that was the moment that we knew we had the right ‘tuning’ as we were able to fully enjoy the music (and dance like a-holes) without having our ears ring afterwards…
I dare say they’ve nailed it and invented “the better ear plug.” At a mere $25 (half the cost of the EARasers), DUBS offer an excellent way to protect your hearing without sacrificing the quality of the music you went to see in the first place (which is the whole reason behind protecting our hearing, so we can enjoy shows forever). And they aren’t just useful for concerts but for any loud activity that requires you to be able to hear… (They’ve been letting me drum harder for longer and a lot of motorports people have been digging ’em too) so if you subject yourself to loud noise on a regular basis and don’t want to be a def old person (or young person), treat yourself to a pair of DUBS… future you will thank past you… and how often does future you travel back in time to kick it? That’s right, almost never.
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