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Here’s some information about the different sorts of earplugs you can get. From basic to more advanced depending on what you need them for.

Key word to remember is Attenuation: Loss in intensity – the ‘turning down’ of sound.

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Foam Earplugs

Pros:
Cheap. Fit everyone. Reasonably comfortable. Good attenuation up to 30dB(A) if properly fitted.

Cons:
They basically block your ears, so no good for listening to music or hearing people speak in noisy environments. There’s also a loss of sound clarity in mid and high frequencies. AND, you can’t guarantee proper fit in the ear canal if they aren’t put in correctly, so it’s hard to say exactly how much they will ‘turn down the sound’.

Basic plugs such as foam, wax and silicone can be bought on the high street. Prices start from around £1 a box.

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Universal Fit – High Fidelity Attenuating

Pros:
Affordable. Universal fit. Reasonable frequency response and clarity for listening to music. Good entry level, ready to go attenuating hearing protection.

Cons:
Limited choice of attenuation levels. Cannot guarantee proper application or fit in the ear canal so specific attenuation difficult to rely on.

Cheapest start at £10. Best about £12.99.

Universal fit plugs can be purchased here.

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Custom Moulded

Pros:
Bespoke fitting to your ear canal so perfect fit and seal. Guaranteed specific attenuation is assured. A range of attenuating high fidelity filters available, some with near flat frequency response, for different musical or environmental situations. High fidelity sound quality. Best for listening to music. Fashionable colours and neck cords available as an option.

Cons:
More expensive than universal fit earplugs. New ear impressions required every 4 years as ears change shape as you grow older.

Best start at £139. To purchase this type of earplug, you need to visit a high street hearing healthcare professional, where moulds would be taken and sent away.

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In Ear Monitors (IEMs)

These are high spec earphones used by musicians or DJs to hear their specific ‘monitor mix’ on stage and control their sound levels accordingly.

Pros:
Best way to have control of your sound levels on stage. Better high fidelity sound quality. Custom moulded provide best level of isolation to the ear so that the sound quality and level can be accurately controlled. A range of audio specifications.

Cons:
Price for custom moulded high end spec. Some singers find it hard to work with IEMs. Require a very good Sound/Monitor Engineer to be utilised properly.

Good quality universal fit start at £149, Custom Moulded £299.
To purchase this type of earplug, you need to visit a high street hearing healthcare professional, where moulds would be taken and sent away.

To find out more about purchasing earplugs, contact info@plugem.co.uk

Text credit: Jono Heale B/Mus(Hons); TechIOSH; AIIRSM
Director of Education ACS Custom Ltd (hearing protection and IEM specialists)