The Case for Custom Earplugs
Ears are weird.
Yeah, we said it. And we’ll say it again; ears are weird. They’ve got all sorts of grooves and crevices. They’re large, small, mismatched, and they handle sound differently from one person to the next. Actually, from one side to the next.
Which means, ears need protection that isn’t exactly one-size-fits-all. Well, a little of column A, a little of column B, which we’ll get to in a second.
CUSTOM EQUALS COMFORT
You know how it goes: you buy a pair of earplugs, pop them in, and go about your business. Only, you hope they don’t fall out or become uncomfortable as they rest against product-designed pressure points molded from one ear in a factory downtown. So, throughout their use you continue to adjust them, twist them if they’re foam, lose them to the dirty concert floor or muddy field, and more likely, you give up on them altogether.
Not with custom molded earplugs. With custom earplugs, you get a fit that matches your ear cavity and inner canal – and yours alone. That means your ear provides all the pressure points naturally, so you don’t even notice you have earplugs in at all. The result is a secure fit you don’t have to worry about when you’re focus is elsewhere. After all, you’re using earplugs so you can focus – whether that’s on your thoughts or the environment you’re in – without the constant need to fidget around.
FULL OCCLUSION OR SITUATIONAL AWARENESS?
Do you want to block out the world when you’re on public transportation, at the library, or just to take a mental getaway? That’s where full occlusion earplugs work their magic. By completely filling the outer ear canal, users will find that almost no sound will make it through. Sure, there’s never true silence as even your bones can conduct sound and pass on tiny bits of noise, but it’s pretty close.
These block-out-everything earplugs, aka traditional earplugs, are the most versatile. This means they’re ideal for casual users. They come in various colors and offer the highest NRR for your money. By the way, NRR stands for Noise Reduction Rating – a measurement that determines how well a device like an earplug prevents exposure to damaging sounds. While many earplugs do a passable job with low- to mid-range NRR dB levels, custom hearing protection is able to deliver a higher NRR thanks to the way they shape to ear canals and close off entry points.
Now, say you want to hear the world around you, but only need to block out the truly harmful frequencies. This is where filters take center stage to offer situational awareness. Like a door funneling a crowd one by one instead of a mass exodus, quality filters utilize intelligent passthrough to reduce high sound waves to safe levels while still allowing the user to hear the natural world around them. It’s the best of both worlds really, as you get the isolation you’re looking for, but can still interact with the world around you. Something only custom can deliver.
THE COST OF A CLASSIC CUSTOM EARPLUG
Don’t get us wrong, custom has been around for a long time. It’s just that normally, it’s near unaffordable to get individualized hearing protection. We're talking HUNDREDS of dollars, on average.
Here’s how it used to go:
- You work with an audiologist who takes an impression of your ear using silicone/putty/etc.
- They charge you for that meeting, then ship out the impression to an outside specialist.
- The specialist eventually receives the impression and fills a cavity with the molding material before shipping it back out.
- You make another appointment with your audiologist, try it out, then cross your fingers.
- If it fits, congrats! You pay a few hundred dollars and hold onto those for dear life.
- If they don’t fit, then you start that process all over again.
Today, there are options for custom earplugs just as good – if not better – than the classic audiologist approach. And the biggest differentiator? Moldability.
A UNIVERSAL APPROACH
Earlier we said that hearing protection isn’t one-size-fits-all. However, that comes with a pretty big caveat. With custom moldable earplugs, one-size-DOES-fit-all. It’s just that, you get to choose the fit.
Think of it this way; imagine your favorite shoe manufacturer decided to release their newest style – but only in one size. And worst of all, it’s ALMOST a perfect fit. After a while, your toes start to hurt, your sole is being rubbed raw, and the laces barely meet enough for you to tie a knot. That would be pretty annoying, right?
Now imagine they released the same shoe, but you could choose the lace length, the sole type, even the color, before you even tried them on. This would mean you have the high-quality shoe you want, but it’s also designed just for you. Oh, and these fictional shoes also come with interchangeable soles and laces and all the options you need so as your feet grow or need to adjust after some use, you don’t need to buy and entire new pair.
That, in a nutshell, is the benefit of custom. Only it’s for your ears.
The often-overlooked benefit to custom hearing safety is the ability to remold.
Infinite re-moldability provides room for trial and error, friendly loan outs, and emergency re-shapes in case they get left on a hot summer dashboard. After all, the last thing you want is unwanted sounds passing through gaps and defeating the purpose of your hearing protection.
SAY GOODBYE TO FOAMIES
We couldn’t speak to custom hearing protection without talking about foamies. Everyone and their uncle has a pair of foam earplugs. You know, those brittle tie-dye ones you roll up and shove into your ears. Sometimes they expand, sometimes not. Sometimes they fit, most of the time they don’t. Sometimes they stay in, more than not they fall out and are never to be seen again. Which means, you’re buying more every time you go out.
There are better, long-term options out there. I mean, we COULD tell you the name of ones we suggest, but that wouldn’t be fair. We’ll just say it rhymes with decibels.
Like hearing that’s protected by a secure earplug – full occlusion or filtered – the benefits of custom hearing protection become clear. Skip the standard foam and bank-breaking audiologist earbuds and say it with us.
Ears are weird. They deserve a weird shape.