Why Choose Custom-Molded Over Disposable Earplugs?
Just as hearing loss is known as the invisible disability, sound is known as the invisible threat. Without even being mindful of it, the sounds we subject ourselves to could be initiating permanent hearing loss that grows irreversibly year after year.
Who’s at risk for hearing loss?
An average conversation registers at a volume of about 60 decibels. City traffic registers at about 80, a rock concert at 100, a sporting event at 105, a power saw at 110, and a shotgun blast at a deafening 145.
Here’s the issue: repeated exposure to any sound in excess of 85 decibels can induce irreversible hearing loss. That’s the reason why hearing protection is especially vital for musicians, concert-goers, hunters, and construction workers.
But it’s not as straightforward as just circumventing the sound. Most of us are not willing to give up our careers or go without attending concerts just to ensure that we can hear better when we get older. The only resolution is a compromise: protecting our hearing by decreasing the volume of the sounds we’re subjected to. Welcome to the world of earplugs.
Custom versus disposable earplugs
The objective of any earplug is obvious: lower the volume of sound. And although it’s true that any earplug can achieve this, it turns out that it’s not so simple, for two reasons:
- All sound is not created equal—speech is different than background noise, and you’ll want to suppress the latter, not the former.
- Sound is dynamic—different frequencies necessitate different handling, and volume shouldn’t be decreased by too much or by too little.
So, for an earplug to be effective, it has to 1) limit the volume of sound, but not by too much or too little, and 2) handle assorted types of sounds, or frequencies, differently.
As you’ll discover, custom earplugs accomplish these two feats much better than foam earplugs and have the advantage in three critical areas: sound quality, comfort, and cost.
1. Sound Quality
Disposable foam earplugs block out all sound and all frequencies, producing what is called the occlusion effect for the user, which is the sense of a “hollow” or “booming” echo-like sound in their own voice. Foam earplugs reduce overall sound quality and produce a claustrophobic feeling.
Custom earplugs, alternatively, come with special filters for an exact, even level of noise reduction (attenuation). The earplugs can be programmed to decrease volume only by the necessary amount, and can filter particular types of sound more than others, preserving the fidelity of music and speech.
Foam earplugs, to be effective at reducing volume, have to form a deep, tight seal within the ear canal, producing a sustained feeling of pressure, and this “plugged up” feeling is nearly universal.
Custom earplugs, however, are molded to the contours of each patient’s ears by a hearing professional, creating a secure, natural fit without the feeling of constant pressure. Custom earplugs are also developed with soft, medical-grade material that doesn’t shrink or change shape.
Additionally, foam earplugs are unable to adjust well to variations in ear size and shape. Since custom earplugs are specially molded for each patient, variations in ear size and shape create no problem whatsoever.
Let’s carry out some quick calculations, starting with foam earplugs.
Let’s say you work in a profession that calls for the daily use of earplugs. Assuming an average cost of $0.19 per pair, with use on 5 days a week over 4 years, the total cost would be:
$0.19 X 5 days X 52 weeks X 4 years = $197.60 total cost.
(Also bear in mind the environmental cost: over four years you’d be throwing away 1,040 pairs of earplugs!)
Let’s compare that $197 to the cost of a pair of custom earplugs.
A top quality pair of custom earplugs can last four years or more, but let’s just say four. The majority of custom earplugs cost under $100, so your overall cost after four years is less than half the cost of the disposable earplugs—and you’ll receive greater sound quality and comfort in return.
Not to mention that by wearing the same custom earplugs for four years, you’ll reduce the waste connected with throwing out over 1,000 pairs of foam earplugs.
Custom hearing protection and foam earplugs will both decrease volume and protect your hearing, but that’s where the commonalities end. Custom earplugs have better sound quality, are more comfortable, and cost you and the environment, in the long run, much less.