Previously, I have discussed why you should be protecting your ears and covered some of the pro’s and con’s of the different options of custom hearing protection out there.
This article will focus specifically on my choice.
Firstly, as I think I have probably already mentioned, these isnt my first custom hearing protection. They are actually the third set I have made up. So, to be fair – I was already sold on the idea – my previous two sets had worked very well and basically, I had lost them, tried other solutions and wanted the level of protection and convenience these plugs gave me back.
The Process – custom hearing protection
Since I have already covered the why, this is the how.
Getting fitted for a custom set of earplugs is a two set process. First, Thomas (owner of Acoustix Hearing Technologies and my go-to for all hearing related issues now) sits you down and has a chat about what you are trying to achieve and the options you have to do it. Thomas is a wealth of information, having spent a lot of time providing solution protecting hearing and also dealing with the consequences if you havn’t protected them. In addition, he has spent enough time at a range (Swiss, prior military service) to fully appreciate the requirements of a shooter.
We often end up chatting about bigger picture things – stubborn guys refusing to do something about their hearing problems, wishing people would be more proactive in their protection, however, the purpose of the first appointment is to decide on a plan of action and then take some earmolds.
Basically, goo gets injected into your ears and forms a perfect negative mold of your ear canal. Interestingly, the need to be updated – so my first molds from a couple of years ago (like, ten I think) potentially wouldn’t have fitted me anymore. While not really something I would want to do for fun, the process isn’t painful and really just requires you to sit there while the world around you is muffled and flat (much like hearing damage I would pick).
It’s kinda interesting seeing what your ear canals look like when they come out. There is certainly a lot more twists and curves in there that I thought!
The molds are then sent off to be ‘cast’ into the hearing protection and the filters and set into place.
It’s not only the earplugs that are custom – the filters that are used are specifically chosen for the purpose you intend to use them for. Depending on the expected ambient noise levels and the nature of the noise, you are able to use different levels and curves of attenuation. However, we are talking loud, short impacts – so the filters offer large amounts of protection, which a significant focus being in the 4k region.
Now, some relevant information about the 4k region. This is roughly where a new born childs scream is most focused and by evolutionary ‘coincidence’ where the human ear also shows a sensitivity bump. In audio mastering (music and speech) – this is where you can boost and cut frequencies to make things clearer and ‘sharper’. It’s an important area of hearing for us when it comes to understanding each other talking and deserves the extra protection.
The return appointment
Once the molds have been made, Thomas gets you back into the clinic and fits and checks the function of the earplugs. It is important here, if you feel any discomfort that you let him know. Without feedback he can only assume they are comfortable and fitting as they should. If they don’t a simple modification may be in order that will make all the difference between you wearing them regularly and feeling you have wasted your money. They should be comfortable. Mine are, I could nearly wear them all day.
They have a little blue and red dot on them to indicate left and right ears respectively. Good luck getting them in backwards anyhow.
Accessories and maintenance
Along with the custom hearing protection you will get a small bag to carry them in, some ear cream (lube) and a helpful little pick to get earwax out of the plugs.
It is important to keep these things clean. Unlike a pair of foam plugs that you should be throwing away after use (common you tight bastard!) these are going to be reused. Take the time to keep them clean, maintain some basic hygiene standards and your ears will thank you.
I would also suggest talking to Thomas about getting a lanyard that will attach to the earplugs. Essentially, it’s an easy way of keeping the earplugs handy if you want to take them out during strings of fire (they can just hand around your neck) and it also tethers them together and provides a long piece of easier to spot cord between the earplugs. Worth it, borderline essential in my opinion.
Are they worth the money?
Yes. Yes they are. A set of these are going to set you back around the $300 mark. This includes the protectors and the two appointments.
I have used earmuffs (hit the stock, hot) foam plugs (muffle everything) and the mid range EP7’s from Surefire (actually really good as well and act as my backups) – but the custom hearing protection just feel better, cut out more sound when they need to and let me have a conversation without taking them out.
Sure, if I was around a braked .338 all day, I would likely put earmuffs over the hearing protection when I was spotting (especially if off to the side in the wash) – but for 99% of the time they are all the protection you need.
Hopefully, I don’t lose another pair, because I would be buying custom hearing protection yet again.
If you are interested in discussing custom hearing protection further – get in touch with Thomas at Acoustix. He’s a really good guy and is keen to help protect your hearing so he doesn’t end up having to fit you for hearing aids later on.