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Custom-Molded Silicone Earplug

Just as hearing loss is known as the invisible disability, sound is known as the invisible threat. Without even being alert to it, the sounds we expose ourselves to might be creating permanent hearing loss that grows irreversibly over the years.

Who’s in danger of hearing loss?

A normal conversation registers at a volume of around 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 an earsplitting 145.

Here’s the issue: repeated subjection to any sound above 85 decibels can lead to permanent hearing loss. That’s the reason why hearing protection is particularly essential for musicians, concert-goers, hunters, and construction workers.

But it’s not as easy as just circumventing the sound. Most of us are not willing to abandon our careers or forgo attending concerts just to make certain that we can hear better when we get older. The only solution is a compromise: safeguarding our hearing by limiting the volume of the sounds we’re subjected to. Welcome to the world of earplugs.

Disposable versus custom earplugs

The function of any earplug is obvious: reduce the volume of sound. And even though it’s true that any earplug can achieve this, it turns out that it’s not that easy, for two reasons:

  1. All sound is not created equal—speech is different than background noise, and you’ll want to suppress the latter, not the former.
  2. Sound is dynamic—specific frequencies necessitate different handling, and volume shouldn’t be reduced 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) deal with assorted types of sounds, or frequencies, differently.

As you’ll discover, custom earplugs achieve these two feats better than foam earplugs and have the advantage in three crucial categories: sound quality, comfort, and cost.

1. Sound Quality

Foam earplugs block out all sound and all frequencies, creating what is known as the occlusion effect for the user, which is the feeling of a “hollow” or “booming” echo-like sound in their own voice. Foam earplugs therefore reduce all-around sound quality and create a confined feeling.

Custom earplugs, in contrast, have specialized 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 specific kinds of sound more than others, preserving the fidelity of speech and music.

2. Comfort

Foam earplugs, to be effective at reducing volume, have to form a deep, tight seal within the ear canal, creating a sustained feeling of pressure, and this “plugged up” perception is nearly universal.

Custom earplugs, on the other hand, are molded to the contours of each patient’s ears by a hearing professional, producing a secure, natural fit without the feeling of continuous pressure. Custom earplugs are also made with soft, medical-grade material that doesn’t shrink or change shape.

Additionally, foam earplugs do not adapt well to variations in ear size and shape. Given that custom earplugs are specifically shaped for each patient, differences in ear size and shape pose no problem whatsoever.

3. Cost

Let’s perform some quick calculations, starting with foam earplugs.

Assume that you work in a profession that requires the every-day 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 keep in mind the environmental cost: over the period of four years you’d be disposing 1,040 pairs of earplugs!)

Let’s do a comparison of that $197 to the cost of a pair of custom earplugs.

A high quality pair of custom earplugs can last four years or longer, but let’s just say four. Most custom earplugs cost under $100, so your overall cost after four years is less than half the cost of the disposable earplugs—and you get better sound quality and comfort in return.

In addition, by using the same custom earplugs for four years, you’ll avoid the waste associated with discarding over 1,000 pairs of disposable earplugs.

Custom molded earplugs and foam earplugs will both reduce volume and protect your hearing, but that’s where the commonalities end. Custom earplugs have far better sound quality, are more comfortable, and cost you and the environment, in the long term, significantly less.