Hearing Saver

New Ear Mold Cuts Volume, Retains Clarity

By Paul Moffett

Most music fans can recall exactly when they first left a rock show with a ringing in their ears that lasted longer than a few minutes. A modern era problem, such "ringing" is a signal of ear damage, sometimes severe.

Musicians, too, risk their hearing by playing too loudly. For them, the risk is not simply hearing loss but a danger to their career.

Until recently, the only practical alternatives were wadded-up napkins or their drugstore equivalent, foam rubber or latex earplugs. The problem with such 'alternatives' is that they attenuate (reduce) the high frequencies severely, with a resultant feeling of 'speech deafness' and a hollowness of the wearer's own voice, known as the occlusion effect.

Now, thanks to a dedicated amateur jazz pianist with a Ph.D., a new ear mold that cuts the volume 15db or 25db while keeping the response curve essentially flat is available.

Developed by Dr. Mead C. Killion, following an assessment of the risk of noise-induced hearing loss among musicians in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Westone Laboratory's ER-15 and ER-25 Musician's Earplugs are designed with the musician and music listener in mind. The ear mold is custom-fitted to reduce the attenuation effect and a tuned channel in the mold is fitted with an external filter that reduces the volume by the aforementioned 15db or 25db.

In Louisville, Hear In Kentucky, founded a year-and-a-half ago by music fans Robert R. Marshall and Roy Martin, is authorized to fit the devices. Marshall has been in the hearing device business for ten plus years, and Martin for twenty plus.

As the exclusive Kentucky distributor for Westone labs, Hear in Kentucky should have plenty of business from musicians, according to Marshall.