ER20 Performance

The university of Auckland has recently done research, to find out if the sound quality is compromised if you use musician earplugs, which gave an interesting result.
It goes a bit far to publish the whole dissertation, so we have made a selection of some interesting parts. The dissertation “Hearing Protection And Rock Musicians: Is Sound Quality A Concern?” was written by Claire Elizabeth Spence and Grant Searchfield in 2007.


Despite their risk of hearing loss from amplified music, many rock musicians do not protect their hearing. Reasons for this could include inadequate knowledge/education, inconvenience, cost, appearance, and sound quality issues.
The present study aimed to assess whether the effect that earplugs have on sound quality is a barrier for wearing earplugs.
Thirty-four participants took part in the study (23 males and 11 females). There were 18 non-musicians and 16 rock musicians. The participants listened to 4 rock songs and evaluated the sound quality for three listening conditions:
No-earplugs, ER-20 musicians’ earplugs and foam earplugs.

The outcome of this study shows that rock musicians rate the sound quality higher than non-musicians when listening to music with no earplugs and with ER-20 musicians’ earplugs, but rate the sound quality lower than non musicians when listening with foam earplugs.
Non-musicians also rate the sound quality lower than rock musicians when the attenuation levels are low and the rock musicians rate the sound quality lower than non-musicians when the attenuation values are high.
The effect that foam earplugs have on sound quality might be a barrier for their use, but should not be a barrier for ER-20s. It is therefore likely that some other factor is responsible for the lack of hearing protection use, at least when listening to music. Further research should look at how these results translate to the musicians’ true environment, when the musicians have an audience and are performing live.


To keep a comprehensive explanation of a very thorough execution short, the participants listened three times to four songs, without earplugs, with ER-20 musicians earplugs and with foam earplugs. They recorded how they rated the quality of the music. (Sound levels were kept equal and well below 90 dB)


It is somewhat surprising that the ER-20 received such a high rating. Both the rock-musicians and the non-musician group rated the ER-20s similarly to the no-earplug condition. This is encouraging because it indicates that, while people may reject foam earplugs because of the effect that they have on the quality, the results suggest that the reluctance to wear musicians’ earplugs is not likely to be due to their effect on sound quality.
Presumably the sound quality when wearing custom moulded uniform attenuation earplugs, such as the ER-15, would be even better than the non-custom earplugs.


There are many factors that may prevent musicians from using HP. At present we do not know what they are and it is troubling that musicians report that they are concerned about their hearing, but do not wear HP.

The results of the present study are quite encouraging and show that appropriate HP may not adversely affect the sound quality of rock music. The rock musicians found the foam earplugs have a negative impact on the sound quality, yet the majority of the people who tried HP used foam earplugs. It is therefore not surprising that the use of HP was quite low amongst the rock musicians in this study.
Further research is needed to determine what it is that prevents musicians from wearing HP and how these barriers can be overcome.

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