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I sometimes attend events with very loud music, e.g. Technoparade (> 110dB next to speakers) and at times need to stop listening the music, without having to move. How can I achieve maximum hearing protection?

Currently I use a combination of:

  1. custom-fitted earplugs (mirror) (~30 dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)(mirror) for the most protective ones): for that maximum hearing protection, I don't use custom-fitted, flat-response attenuators but instead use custom-fitted earplugs designed to sleep, as I believe the latter provide higher noise/music reduction.
  2. ear muffs or noise cancelling headphones (~33 dB NRR for the most protective ones).

How can I improve on that? I can't find (mirror) custom-fitted earplugs or earmuffs that offer more than ~30 dB reduction, unless I missed something, otherwise perhaps could I add a third level of protection (if so, what)?


Note, from Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): A Beginner’s Guide (mirror):

The equipment used to protect hearing does not reduce the decibel levels within a given environment by the precise decibel number that is tied to the NRR for that device. For example, a person who is working in a loud occupational environment may be exposed to noise as great as 100 decibels. If an individual is wearing hearing protection equipment with an NRR of about 30 decibels, the noise exposure amount would not be lowered to 70 decibels. Instead, it would be lowered to 88.5 decibels. Take a look at the following steps taken to determine the level of noise exposure after reduction:

  1. Subtract seven from the NRR number, which is given in decibels.
  2. Divide the result by two.
  3. Subtract the result from the original noise exposure level in decibels.

which means using a custom-fitted earplugs with 30 dB reduction and earmuffs with 33 dB Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) doesn't result in the Technoparade music being reduced from 110dB to 53dB (=110-30-33): instead, the music will be heard at a dB higher than 53. One may use some online hearing protection calculator to compute the actual dB reduction given the NRR and speaker dB. Also, note that for most wearers, the NRR identified on the current EPA label significantly overestimates the protection of the hearing protector in the workplace (mirror).

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    Noise cancelling motorcycle helmets seem to be a thing, according to Google. Or maybe you could look into helmets for racing drivers, or helicopter or fighter jet pilots, or their support crew. Those people operate in extremely noisy environments, so I assume their helmets will offer a good degree of acoustic insulation, and work better than something that only covers your ears. – Your Uncle Bob Jun 29 '20 at 2:10
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    You should be wearing at least 40dB protection all the time in that environment. You may not care today, but in 20 years when your hearing is shot to hell, you'll wish you had. – Carl Witthoft Jun 29 '20 at 13:26
  • @CarlWitthoft Thanks, I appreciate the warning, you're 100% correct. Luckily I've been wearing custom-fitted earplugs since my first club outings, and typically I'm not around more than 105dB (club limit in France) so all good :) when you say 40dB protection, do you mean 40db NRR, or find protection than brings the level to 70dB (=110-40)? – Franck Dernoncourt Jun 29 '20 at 13:36
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    I meant 40dB reduction - sorry for the ambiguity – Carl Witthoft Jun 29 '20 at 18:59
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Other than making a lead bucket that goes over your head, or maybe lead ear-caps that go under your earmuffs, I think you've pretty much hit the current technology for hearing protection.

The ear plug / earmuff combination is pretty much standard for noisy environment work, such as near airplanes or loud equipment. There are some versions of earmuffs that also have noise cancelling, adding up to another -25db reduction in the low frequency range.

Most hearing preservation advice recommends limiting your exposure to the high SPLs when possible, so if you need a break from the music, unfortunately, the best way is to give up that sweet spot in front of the speaker and get out of the noise.

EDIT: If you are willing to do some experimenting, Dental molding putty is fairly dense and flexible. I use it to cast metal pieces, and people do small body casting with it. If you carefully set the molding in your outer ear area with your ear plug in, you could possible create a layer that can go between your plugs and earmuffs for some additional density. I don't know if it would be helpful, but worth some experimenting.

https://www.google.com/search?q=dental+molding+putty

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  • "maybe lead ear-caps that go under your earmuffs" yes that was my best guess. I was hoping there would be some established solution to use the gap between the earplug and the earmuff. Regarding the lead bucket, might be possible in some medieval-themed event ;) – Franck Dernoncourt Jun 29 '20 at 0:28
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    Not that I've seen in at the trade shows or in catalogues. Dental casting putty might make a good in-between. I'll update answer. – Alphonso Balvenie Jun 29 '20 at 0:29
  • Good point, dental casting putty or the putty used to make custom-fitted earplugs (i.stack.imgur.com/epueh.jpg). Unsure how it'd stay on top of earplugs though. – Franck Dernoncourt Jun 29 '20 at 0:33
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    Denture glue maybe... – Alphonso Balvenie Jun 29 '20 at 0:37
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    "Regarding the lead bucket, might be possible in some medieval-themed event ;)" - Or a GWAR show... – Alphonso Balvenie Jun 29 '20 at 0:39

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