As a musician, there is nothing more important than protecting your ears. Persistent exposure to excessive noise – such as loud music – can lead to permanent hearing loss and constant ringing in the ears known as “tinnitus.”
Drummers are at the highest risk for hearing damage because of the loud nature of their instrument. It is essential that drummers use some kind of hearing protection when they play the drums.
Hearing protection usually comes in the form of earplugs or earmuffs. Standard earmuffs and earplugs will protect a drummer’s ears from being damaged, but can affect the quality of the sound heard by the drummer.
Specially crafted musician earplugs do exist for the purpose of attenuating noise to safe volume levels while retaining the vital frequencies of the music.
FSL Decimate Safety Earmuff / Ear Defender
If you are looking for solid, affordable ear protection without the nuance of musician earplugs, look no further than the FSL Decimate Safety Earmuffs. These earmuffs are designed for loud conditions such as firing guns or using a jack hammer, so they will definitely protect one’s ears while drumming even in the loudest of genres.
The earmuffs have a high NRR rating of 34 dB. This will dampen and muffle the sound substantially when practicing, so it may not be perfect for someone who is working on the subtleties of their drum sound. However, they are ideal for someone who is rehearsing or performing in a percussion ensemble such as a marching band or samba school, or other loud genres of music such as heavy metal, where the volume levels can become deafening.
These earmuffs are designed for harsh weather conditions that hunters and construction workers face, so they will last you a long time. If you do have trouble with them, they do come with a three-year warranty, making them a cheap and long-term investment for your hearing.
For anyone who isn’t particularly concerned with pristine sound quality but wants to protect their ears, these are an excellent buy. They are cheap, sturdy, and very powerful when it comes to sound attenuation compared to other ear protection models.
Vic Firth Drummer’s Ear Defenders
Vic Firth’s Ear Defenders are designed for practicing the drums. They have an NRR rating of 25, which is not as strong as the earmuffs designed for shooting and construction, but certainly enough ear protection for drumming.
Since they go over the ear in an earmuff design rather than an earplug design, this model allows for the drummer to wear earbuds underneath so they can practice with recorded music.
The Vic Firth Ear Defenders are comfortable to wear. They have large foam cushions to rest against your ears. There is no struggle to fit them into your ears like one might have with the earplugs, as they automatically align themselves with your head size for maximum comfort and hearing protection.
Lastly, Vic Firth’s Ear Defenders are sturdy and hard to lose. The large pair of earmuffs is easier to keep track of than a small pair of earplugs. They are well-constructed and come with a yearlong warranty agreement.
These are the perfect option for someone who is seeking ear protection for practicing the drums alone. They reduce volume reaching the ear at a more appropriate rate than standard safety earmuffs while still retaining the durability and comfort that comes with the earmuff style.
Alpine MusicSafe Pro Filter Ear Plugs for Musicians
For a gigging drummer, earplugs are the most ideal, as they can be virtually invisible to the audience. A multitude of companies design musician-catered earplugs that have lower rates of sound attenuation and evenly reduce volume levels across the frequency spectrum in order to preserve the quality of the music reaching the ear.
Alpine MusicSafe Pro Filter Ear Plugs are unique in that they have 3 different filter settings. These range from low, middle, and high sound protection. This is a fantastic feature for a drummer, as it allows one to adjust the amount of noise attenuation depending on the setting.
For example, one could set the filter to low for practicing, medium for rehearsing with a group, and high for a loud concert. This feature could also be useful for the varying volumes of different styles of music, or different rooms in which one might be performing.
In addition to the adjustable hearing protection, Alpine MusicSafe Pro Filter Earplugs are made of special AlpineThermoPro material. This material is soft, durable, and adjusts to the shape of your ear based on the temperature of your ear canal.
Musician earplugs tend to cost a bit more than your standard earmuffs or earplugs, but they provide a clearer sound. These particular earplugs also provide the drummer with more variety in levels of sound attenuation, making them a great option for someone who is gigging in a lot of different environments and genres.
LiveMus!c Hearsafe Earplugs
Here is another example of high-fidelity musician ear plugs that provide with you with filter options for different sound attenuation levels. The LiveMus!c Hearsafe Earplugs come with two pairs of earplugs and two filters.
One filter reduces sound at a rate of 23 dB and other at 29 dB, giving you a couple options with the amount of reduction that you prefer for a given situation. They are designed to attenuate high frequency noise, allowing the drummer to still hear the music and speech of fellow musicians clearly.
LiveMus!c Hearsafe Earplugs are also devised for comfort. They are made of a plush silicone material that is both hypoallergenic and non-toxic, so you won’t have to worry about irritating the inside of your ear. They are cone shaped with three rims to fit and hold the earplug in your ear canal.
If you are concerned with the cost, take this into consideration – the LiveMus!c Earsafe earplugs come with a lifetime warranty, and the company guarantees a quick and painless replacement process. They can last up to 30 months without any maintenance.
I would suggest these earplugs for a drummer on a budget who still wants musician quality ear protection with different sound attenuation level options. They are cheaper and come with a lifetime replacement warranty, which is unheard of with other brands.
Etymotic Research ETY Plugs
Etymotic Research is a well-respected company among musicians when it comes to hearing protection and sound clarity. Along with musician ear plugs, they design hearing aids and other products related to audiology research and hearing loss.
The ETY earplugs are engineered to imitate the process of the ear canal when interpreting sound. Using a tuned resonator and acoustic resistor, the plugs will achieve the natural response of the human ear.
All frequencies are attenuated at the same rate of 20 dB, so these will not dampen or muffle the tone of music. Instead you will hear music just as if you had no earplugs in, only quieter.
Although they are cheap compared to other musician earplugs, ETY plugs do wear down faster than other brands. Etymotic’s website states that the earplugs may need to be replaced after 3 to 6 months of persistent use.
These earplugs are ideal for someone who wants to hear the most accurate natural drum tone but still protect their ears. Just keep in mind that if they work well for you, you will want to order several pairs because they do wear out after extended use.