EARasers: Not Your Standard Earplugs


Protecting Your Most Important Piece of Audio Equipment: EARaser’s HiFi Earplugs in Action

When I first got into the audio-engineering business, I received advice from different people on a number of topics. Teachers, mentors, and friends would share their favorite mic-placement tips, preferred preamps for specific applications, or how they like to EQ a lead vocal to really get it to pop in a track. However, the single best piece of advice I ever received was simple. “You only have one pair of ears.”

Obvious, of course, but not something to which I had really given much thought before I decided to get into recording full time. All the knowledge and experience in the recording world would not mean a thing if I did not take care of my hearing. This meant I had to become serious about that necessary evil: earplugs. What was so nefarious about my experiences with earplugs? To understand that, let’s quickly talk about how human beings hear frequencies, and how most earplugs affect that.

Not all frequencies are perceived equally by the human ear. We basically hear sounds that fall between 20Hz (think very low bass) to 20kHz (almost inaudible high pitches) with a high end that diminishes as we age. While we can hear sounds in this range, we do not perceive all these frequencies with the same sense of loudness. In a nutshell, our hearing is more sensitive to some frequencies than others.

So when you go to the corner drug store and buy a pack of those inexpensive foam earplugs, you are buying something that indiscriminately lowers volume levels regardless of frequency. The result: what you hear is muffled, dull, and inarticulate as well as less loud. While that muffled response won’t make much of a difference if you just want to block out a noisy roommate, local construction work, or the din from your subway ride, inexpensive earplugs can make band rehearsals, playing live, or going to concerts or clubs less enjoyable because you know you are not hearing what is really going on sonically. Let’s face it, it is a common experience to start out the evening with the earplugs in, only to yank them out when the DJ plays your favorite track or as your favorite band takes the stage.

The solution to these inaccurate earplugs has usually been to visit an audiologist, have custom-fitted molds of your ears made, and have expensive filters put into the molds that are designed to attenuate frequencies evenly across the hearing spectrum. Speaking from experience, this can be a pricey endeavor, one that can easily range between $100 and $200.

However, EARasers has created a line of earplugs that provide this accurate flat response filtration of frequencies that does not require custom molds—or their price tags. Started by Don Campbell as an off-shoot of Persona Medical, a company with 45 years of experience designing hearing-assistance devices, EARasers understands the science of your ear. Their V filter provides up to 19.2dB of reduction at 3.15kHz, a frequency where much of speech intelligibility is found, and one that we perceive as being louder than other frequencies. While they provide more attenuation at higher frequencies, the EARasers have subtle reduction at lower frequencies, which theoretically allows us to use them and hear more naturally. Eager to try them out, I jumped at the chance to do a hands-on review, so I could compare them to my pricier custom-fit earplugs and see how well they would hold up.

I was set up with a medium-sized pair, which are about 1 cm wide. They will likely fit most adult males, but are available in a small size as well. The EARasers come with a circular plastic carrying case that will fit in your pocket or backpack easily, which makes having them on hand for concerts and clubs easy and relatively hassle free. The plugs themselves are made of medical-grade silicone and have an open canal shape, the purpose of which is to allow sound waves further into your ear before they hit the filter and are attenuated. They are much smaller than my custom-fit molds, as the custom fits take up my entire ear canal, and sit flush with my outer ear, which is where the filter lies. The EARasers are designed to fit snugly into your ear canal, and aside from the plastic string used to remove them, essentially remain invisible once in. A small red stripe on one plug indicates it is shaped for the right ear, while a blue stripe on the other indicates left. Once in, I was impressed with how comfortable they felt, and actually thought I did not place them deep enough in my ear to create a proper seal until I spoke, at which point it was clear they were in my ears correctly.

My first test was a controlled one. I wanted to use them in my home studio setup in front of my monitors. By doing this, I could evaluate how these earplugs attenuate in a room with a response I am very familiar with, in front of monitors I know, listening to music I know well. One of my go-to test records is the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, so that is what I put on. I pulled up an SPL meter app on my phone so I could keep my monitors at roughly 85dB of output, the same level at which I'd be comfortable mixing.

The opening melody of Wouldn’t it Be Nice rung through accurately and clearly, though I was aware I wasn’t hearing the full-frequency content of the song. When the drums hit and the song really starts, the EARasers started to shine. They truly allowed the low end to come through, as articulate and clear as the mids and the highs. I pulled them out so I could experience the full volume of the monitors, and while it was noticeably louder and clearer, it was apparent that the EARasers were not muffling any one frequency range more than another. Returning them to my ears, I listened to the next few tracks, and was generally pleased with how even and accurate they were.

Listening to monitors was not going to tell the full story, so, EARasers in hand, I went out to a popular bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to see how the EARasers would hold up against an evening of raucous live rock 'n’ roll. After two 45-minute sets with levels ranging between 110 and 115dB, I was really won over by the EARasers. When I wear my custom-fit earplugs, I am hyper-aware that they are in my ears. They start out comfortable enough, but by the end of a show I am in a rush to rip them out of my ears. With the EARasers, I barely noticed I had them in for that extended period. And the sound was spot on. I did not feel like I was missing a thing by having them in my ears, and I left the venue without ringing ears.

The Takeaway: You Only Have One Pair of Ears

It really doesn’t matter if you are an audio engineer, hobbyist, or just average music fan, protecting your hearing should be of the utmost importance, as hearing loss remains irreversible. If you want to go out and enjoy live music, whether listening or playing, and hear what is going on, un-muffled and honest, you’ll find the EARasers to be a must-have. They performed as well sonically as the custom pair for which I paid three times as much. A pair of EARasers will remain in my backpack so I’ll have them with me at all times.

To learn more about EARasers, stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969 or contact us online via Live Chat.


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