ó For a long time, music lovers have been forced to make a
choice: Go to concerts and fully hear the music while probably
incurring permanent hearing damage, or wear earplugs that
protect their hearing while distorting the sound of the music.
high-fidelity earplugs, which are designed to preserve both
sound quality and a listenerís hearing by electronically
foam earplugs disproportionately muffle some pitches more than
others, so the music gets garbled. High-fidelity earplugs, on
the other hand, lower the decibels evenly across all pitches.
Palmer, director of the Center for Audiology and Hearing Aids
at University of Pittsburgh Medical Centerís Eye and Ear
Institute, believes the earplugs should be viewed like seat
belts: a necessary precaution to minimize the risk of a
potentially harmful, but ultimately valuable, activity.
Clark offers another analogy: sunscreen. The CEO and founder
of Earpeace, a company that manufactures high-fidelity
earplugs and markets them to young people, said that
beachgoers understand that overexposure to the sun is harmful
and put on sunscreen to ensure their experiences donít cost
them their health. Likewise, people go to concerts to feel the
music, but they should still protect their hearing. Once the
hearing is gone, itís gone forever.
time youíre at a nightclub and your ears are ringing, and
you can hear a difference in the ways your ears are
performing, you have incurred a small amount of hearing loss,
and thatís permanent," he said.
said the need for hearing protection is especially great in
12- to 19-year-olds, the fastest growing population of
individuals with noise-induced hearing loss. But she is
optimistic about how open young people are to preserving their
donít mind having things in their ears," she said,
referring to the earbuds that are popular with a generation
that has grown up with iPods. "And this is a group of
people looking at their health a little differently. They donít
want to compromise their hearing."
said people who resist earplugs do so for three reasons:
concerns about the sound quality, comfort and aesthetic. He
hopes to overcome those objections by creating a product thatís
high-tech, comfortable and unobtrusive. His companyís
earplugs retail for between $13 and $18 for standard
high-fidelity earplugs and $185 for custom fit earplugs.
custom-fit model is popular with musicians, said Palmer, who
works with many of them at the Center for Audiology and
Hearing Aids. She received her doctorate in audiology and
hearing impairment at Northwestern University.
youíre a musician, you need sensitivity and pitch perception
for tuning, for playing with other people ... their ear is
part of their livelihood, and the only way to protect that is
actually to wear hearing protection," she said.
Zitelli, a 29-year-old pharmacist who plays guitar for fun,
has worn high-fidelity earplugs since he was in a band in
college. His wife, an audiologist who works with Palmer,
encouraged him to use the earplugs, and eventually he
capitulated. He wears them when he attends concerts and when
love them and would never go back to regular earplugs,"
he said. "With (high-fidelity earplugs), things sound the
way they should sound."