5 reasons why it's time to start wearing earplugs at gigs

Loop earplugs
(Image credit: Loop)

Going to see your favourite artist perform live can be an exhilarating experience. After all, what’s not to like about watching a bona fide rock god strutting and swaggering across the stage in all their leather-clad pomp? As with anything remotely fun, though, attending gigs comes with a safety warning. With the music being blasted out at high volumes, your eardrums can take a battering if you don’t take precautions - something that's especially true in smaller venues, where chances are you'll be much closer to the speakers. 

But what do I mean by precautions? Don’t worry, I'm not suggesting you stay at home in front of the TV rather than watch your musical heroes. No, the general consensus – backed up by the World Health Organisation – is that gig-goers should wear a good pair of earplugs to protect their ears against lasting damage. 

If that sounds boring and uncool, have a read of our Earos One and D’Daddario dBud reviews - and check out our list of best earplugs for concerts, which have been tested by music fans and musicians. You'll soon discover that earplugs can not only look discreet, they also don’t spoil the sound emanating from the speakers. Indeed, in some cases they make it even better.

But what are the other reasons why you should wear earplugs when attending gigs and concerts? Let’s take a closer look.

Exposure to loud music can lead to tinnitus


Wearing earplugs at small venues is vital as you'll be much closer to the amps (Image credit: Getty Images/Maki Nakamura)

Deep inside our ears there are thousands of sound-sensing cells known as hair cells.  When sound is emitted from loudspeakers, these cells convert soundwaves into electrical signals that are sent to our brain and interpreted as sound. 

The trouble is, experts reckon these cells suffer damage at noise levels of 85dB and above – noise levels at gigs can rise to 107dB, at which point they get tired and stop responding to sound. This is why we sometimes experience temporary hearing loss after attending a live show. 

Usually, the hair cells recover after a short period of time; anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, however, prolonged exposure to loud music can lead to permanent damage, at which point the brain will start searching for electrical signals that are no longer being transmitted by the ears. This can cause the brain to become hyperactive, resulting in tinnitus – a condition where the individual may experience persistent ringing, whooshing, buzzing or hissing in the ears. While it can come and go, Tinnitus UK report that one in seven people get tinnitus that never goes away. 

2. Long-term exposure can cause deafness 

Tinnitus is a terrible condition and the risk of completely losing your hearing doesn't bear thinking about – and if you don’t adequately protect your eardrums, there’s sadly a very real chance of it happening eventually. 

According to the World Health Organisation, more than a billion people aged between 12 - 35 risk losing their hearing due to prolonged exposure to loud music. Yes, it would probably require prolonged listening at very high volumes for that to occur, but why take the chance?

3. Wearing earplugs is safe, but follow expert advice

You might wonder if putting things inside your lugholes is a safe thing to do, and you’d be right to show concern as problems can arise if you don’t follow the right steps when wearing earplugs. 

If you put anything inside your ears for a long period of time, earwax can build up, potentially causing itching, dizziness and hearing loss. To remedy this, it's important to keep your earplugs clean so you can use them time after time. Doing this will also prevent bacteria building up inside your ears.

It's also important to ensure your earplugs fit snugly – otherwise you may not get the level of noise protection that you need. Thankfully, most earplug brands include a variety of tip sizes in the box so you should be able to find a setting that fits.

For more information on earplug safety, read our article can wearing earplugs damage my ears?.

4. Earplugs actually look really good


(Image credit: Getty Images/bee32)

If you’re concerned that wearing a pair of those foam earplugs they give away free at some concert venues will make you look like a little strange, then you could always buy some earplugs of your own. 

It's also important to note that single use, squishy foam earplugs aren't great and tend to simply muffle the sound of live music and are a better option for getting some peace and quiet at night. When it comes to attending a concert, these should only be used in a pinch: There are far better options out there that not only look good, but will do a far better job of protecting your hearing health.

Most of the earplugs we've tested are discreet and stylish, with some even coming in a choice of colours and limited edition cosmetic finishes, such as the Loop Experience earplugs. And even if you're feeling a little self-conscious, everyone will be watching the band and unlikely to notice what's in your ears - but you'll be safe in the knowledge you're doing something to protect your long-term ear health.

5. Earplugs can improve your concert experience

If you're new to earplugs and are worried that they'll spoil your listening experience at a concert, then don't worry - they won't. As I mentioned above, the cheap foam earplugs will muffle sound and aren't recommended, but the earplugs the Louder team have tried and tested actually enhance the experience. 

Due to the sometimes deafening noise levels at gigs, it’s often difficult to make out some of the nuance in the music. However, listen through a pair of plugs with a flat frequency response – such as the Fender Professional Hi-Fi Earplugs – and you’ll hear the music much more accurately, all while preserving your eardrums.

Paul Dimery

Paul has spent the past eight years testing and writing about gadgets and technology for the likes of Louder, T3 and TechRadar. He might not have the wealth or the looks of Tony Stark, but when it comes to knowing about the latest cool kit, Paul would surely give Iron-Man a run for his money. As for his musical leanings, Paul likes everything from Weyes Blood to Nirvana. If it's got a good melody, he's on board with it.