Help with ear protection/ear plugs

Good afternoon,
I’ve got a couple of questions for those seasoned live players out there about ear protection. I’ve rehearsing for the last two months with a band - first time I’ve done anything like this for an extended period of time…If anyone reading this is worried about getting out there and playing in a band setting I can fully recommend it - It’s been the best thing for my playing and has really given purpose to practice, as well as It’s just super fun to smash out some songs for 3 hours on a Friday night.
Anyway, a month or so in I bought some ear protection in the form of these: Alpine MusicSafe for musicians – Alpine Hearing Protection

I start the evening of rehearsal with them in but as the night progresses I just can’t get on with them, I struggle to hear dynamics in my own playing. I often can’t hear the bass or the other guitar clearly enough and I struggle to pitch my own backing vocals. Because of all of this I end up just taking them out in frustration, but I don’t want to get into this habit as hearing is SO important.

I suppose my questions are as follows:
Is this something I need to learn to deal with and I’ll just learn to cope over time?
Are these terrible ear plugs and not working as intended?
Should I get into the habit of ‘soundchecking’ the lead and rhythm volumes and then just ‘trust’ that I’m not too loud/quiet?
Does anyone have experience with other earplugs or alternatives that work more effectively?

When practicing at home I’ve tried just playing with them in all the time to get used to it…still feels weird! Any advice?

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So I’ll be honest and say I don’t use them BUT we generally only practice a couple of hours a week with chat between songs so not full on PLUS our drummer ( which tends to be who you’re battling with) is not the loudest. Once levelled as long as the drummer isn’t killing it you should be able to play at a reasonable volume without your ears bleeding.

We don’t use an in ear system either but definitely something worth exploring as an alternative.

Yes you should definitely make sure you are all levelled correctly before playing if you’re struggling to hear a particular part without your ear defenders then you need to correct that.

I think given what you’ve said you should persist and perhaps try some different makes to see if they make a difference. I think it’s definitely good practice to protect your hearing.

I’ve struggled with ear protection.

I picked up a not-inexpensive, custom-moulded set a few years ago because I was doing some jam sessions and doing sound for some live bands.

I agree that it’s difficult to use them as you lose a lot. I don’t think it’s the ones you have being bad.

IMO the biggest thing you need to guard your ears from is the drummer. If I was ever near a loud drummer I would keep them in. Otherwise, forget it!



Do you use monitors? When I played in a band I found the reason it gets so loud is everyone keeps turning up so the can hear themselves. Once we started using monitors the volume went way down. They didn’t have in ear monitors when I played so I don’t have any experience with them.

Thanks for the comments - reassuring to know it’s not just me! I’ll persevere. I think last Friday’s rehearsal was particularly loud - one person turns up, then the next…it’s a vicious cycle!

@stitch We don’t use monitors but that’s definitely something we could look into.

I had a similar issue and actually contacted the manufacturer of the ear plugs. I use ear protection because i sit directly in front of the amp due to the nature of my practise space and i already have hearing loss in my right ear due to a fall and head butting the kitchen bench earlier this year. So I want to make sure i protect my ears from any further loss. One thing the manufacturer of the hearing protection said was they felt if i was losing all dynamics then i probably had the hearing protection inserted into the ear too deeply. They said they should just sit loosely in the ear about the same depth as a set of ear buds would. since learning this I have adjusted the depth and noticed a much improved sound. Not sure if this helps but it worked for me. Cheers, Adam

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I think one of the fundamental problems with hearing protection is that it’s generally passive and based on reducing the dBspl level by a certain amount.

To a degree, they can build in some frequency dependency into that so that, for instance, it attenuates higher frequencies more than lower frequencies (and I have seen ear plugs for drummers which do that to reduce the impact of snare drum and cymbal strikes).

But there are major limitations with how much you can control this with a small chunk of passive material.

The reality is the ear/brain is a complex thing and a simple frequency weighted dB reduction doesn’t fully account for how we hear things. So the attenuation you get with ear plugs is always going to impact the sound in some way.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of an easy way around this other than using IEMs or just being careful with your monitoring.

But, even with monitoring, if you have a drummer with an acoustic kit, and if you are playing in small venues where you are standing close to the drummer, you’re always going to have some challenges to contend with.



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A set of active earplugs or a headset with “environmental listening” or “situational awareness” may be what you’re looking for. They let sound through, but have a limiter that prevents it from being louder than about 85db in your ear, which is supposed to be a safe level for up to 8 hours of continuous exposure.

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I listened to this for 15 minutes on the radio on Saturday…it is a hot topic in the Netherlands at the moment,…and rightly so, it is a super big problem that gets worse every day with the largest possible consequences for people with tentitus…

Another rehearsal last night. I persevered with the ear plugs and had a lot more success - not pushing them too far into the ear canal made the most difference. Thanks all for your advice.

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