Ear plugs for player/ type? and also hearing loss

April 7, 2011 at 03:30 AM ·

Hi, Could someone please tell me where to buy ear plugs(best quality) for my 10 year old to use while practicing her violin? She is an advanced player with an average practice time of 3 to 4 hours per day. I am concerned about her practicing too much and also am very worried because her hearing has been recently checked by her physician and is below normal limits. She has a quality 1/2 size instrument that is pretty loud and never uses a mute. She has been with Master teacher just last year and has a perfect ear for pitch on violin. She has been playing since age 4.

Any info on hearing issues and kids or players who studied seriously since an early age is greatly appreciated.

Replies (23)

April 7, 2011 at 03:43 AM ·

 A company called Starkey makes musician earplugs designed to protect hearing, here is their website:


I have a pair of these, and they do work very nicely, allowing you to hear while attenuating the sound. I got them to use for occasions when I had to sit close to the drums or other loud instruments, as I was developing tinnitis. They have to be fitted by a professional, much like hearing aids. It looks like they have a locator on their website, so you can find someone local. They were custom-made and a bit pricey, but they are the best, from all I can tell. I believe they were developed for musicians in the Chicago Symphony.

The other option is just to use the foam earplugs that racecar drivers, etc., use, and you can find those at a drugstore. But they indiscriminately block out everything. They work in a pinch, though, and I'd certainly recommend wearing them for pops concerts when things are amplified, etc. 

I know you have different purposes, but there is all the info.




April 7, 2011 at 04:07 AM ·

Does she exhibit a shift in noise floor in only the left ear? If she shows a loss equally in both ears, it is likely something else.

A violin can produce between 90 and 100 decibels, on an A-weighted scale, at the player's left ear. I measured my own violin at that location and found 96 dB when playing forte.

Hearing loss is different for different people. Some people have "tough" ears. Yes, it is true. There is research on this.

A useful place to look is:



Laurie's suggestion is good. I find that I am sometimes bothered by the sound of the fiddle or the viola under the ear. When that happens, I use the inexpensive ($20) musician's earplugs from "Hearos" and they are much better than standard foam earplugs--they have a "flat" attenuation which keeps music musical).

Children's ear canals are small and typical over the shelf plugs are too big. Custom fitted plugs cost a bit over $100 all the way to $200. They make a mold of your ear canal, make a silicone plug, and then the attenuator goes inside the plug--you can get various types of attenuators for an earplug.

The low-cost method is to use paper towel wound up into a "pen cap cleaning wad" and carefully pressed into the ear canal. It actually works plenty well for these low-level attenuation situations.


April 7, 2011 at 05:05 AM ·

I am thinking of two ways of answering this.

One thing I would consider is the room where your daughter practices. Is there any frequency attenuation or sound reflection that could be adding to the problem? Even if the sound is within decibel limits that are reasonable (defined by typically accepted limits of sound related to hearing loss), there may be some issues related to your daughter's practice that may aggravate whatever is causing your daughter's hearing loss. Have you checked with the audiologist to see if there are any ramifications?

Second, I wouldtry and plan ahead for your daughter's future music opportunities and career. If there is hearing loss as an issue, try and look 10 years ahead, and 20 years ahead, and get as much information from the audioligist as possible for what the real-world situation will be at that time.
There may be no change you can make now, but it may be that you can start working with a focus on certain frequencies or methods that can benefit her in the future.

Good luck! I hope it goes well.

April 7, 2011 at 06:07 AM ·

Thanks so much to all of you for taking time to answer my questions. She has been scheduled for a more intensive hearing exam at a teaching hospital next month. I will arrive with information an both plugs you have mentioned for the audiologist. We do use the foam plugs (generic) since receiving the negative test results last month, and yes, they do not work well and she dislikes them very much! I find her not wearing them because they are bothersome. She is growing so quickly that I am not sure if the fitted plugs will last very long but anything is worth a try. This will be a different hearing specialist than the one we actually saw previously and I am very anxious to hear his response regarding the cause of her hearing loss. As I mentioned, our current audiologist has told us that he does not believe it could be caused by her instrument. My daughter has never worn headphones, rarely watches television and listens to nothing but  music a very low volume. What is shocking is that she is such a light sleeper, that if a floor board creaks in our hallway she is awakened. The test was part of an annual physical and the results shocked our family and frightened my daughter who dreams of playing violin forever as a top player some day. Her hearing test was not favoring one ear over the other. They both tested the same. The rooms she practices in most has a 30' high vaulted ceiling (pine). We use the best strings available and I am wondering if should buy a quieter string label, or she should try to use a mute? We have worked very hard to get her a top quality violin with good projection but, I am thinkin it may be best to have a quieter instrument for daily practice. She has three honors recitals, one at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall and two others in May. This has been very distracting for her practice and focus. But she is hanging in there. Thanks again!

April 7, 2011 at 02:30 PM ·

Go here:


for cheap musically-oriented plugs, and for custom-fitted ones as well (requires an ear mold).  I find plugs attenuate too much, but sometimes use a single plug, left ear, inserted part way, only enough to balance the left/right sound.  If you're monitoring hearing, make sure to get copies of audiograms and keep them to compare for changes.  It's also important to be able to see where the losses are in the frequency spectrum, and whether they are characteristic of particular problems.  For example, my noise-induced hearing loss shows clearly in a dip in the 5 kHz range.

April 7, 2011 at 03:22 PM ·

If both ears are down, it is most definitely not the fiddle that is doing it. The left ear gets much more intense sound than the right.


It could be a piece of test equipment out of calibration.


How many dB down was she reported? I assume this is the typical 1k/2k/4k test? Did they have an 8k? Often the screenings don't. Hearing loss typically shows up first above 10k where the screenings don't even check.


April 7, 2011 at 03:29 PM ·

I remember after one particularly loud rehearsal asking the Concertmaster if long term orchestra playing could cause hearing loss. 

He said,"What?"


-Ann Marie

April 7, 2011 at 03:58 PM ·

 In the orchestra that I last worked for in Sweden, they paid for the musicians custom fit earplugs with various filters to choose from. Before that I never wanted to use earplugs while working in order to do the best possible job. I remember finding out that the total price of those plugs was around $1000. 

I did a search here and found that you could get similar plugs for about $150 if you do the mold yourself. This is the link to the plugs that i am referring to. I believe that an investment in your ears is a very necessary one and would highly recommend them. I use them even if I go to a night club or movie theater.


April 7, 2011 at 04:41 PM ·

"I use them even if I go to a night club"

That's one place where you really MUST. IT isn't unusual to sample a nightclub and fine dBA at 110. And if they have the bass turned up, they will even push the dBC out of the bounds of safety.

April 8, 2011 at 05:26 AM ·

Thanks again guys. I am keeping all of the reports from audiology. I will question the frequency levels that she appears to be missing in the tests. Good point. Also, will ask exactly which test  that she will be given in the teaching hospital. It was prescribed by our audiologist to try to determine what has caused this loss.  Her last test measured the hair follicle reaction. She is testing below the normal level for a child of her age but is not considered offically at the hearing impaired level. We are trying to get to the bottom of this so that she does not continue lose anymore. I was also wondering if since she is so young that possibly her body might heal itself somewhat. She was tested at age 7 for hearing and did show some minor impairment in these tests but the pediatrician blew it off as allergies. She is now testing with less ability to hear than the age 7 tests by one notch lower.

If she has the mute on her instrument wouldn't this help? I have been encouraging her to use it lately. Also, are some strings more quiet than others? She uses the Evah Pirrazzi and the Peter Infeld PI strings now. Maybe we should find her a quieter instrument for practice?

Thanks, but no thanks, to the hearing jokes! One tends to loose one's sense of humor when you are talking about your kid and the rest of her life!! She looked at me the other day and said "Oh my God, am I going to be like Beethovan?" That cuts deep.


April 8, 2011 at 05:50 AM ·

I don't think the fiddle is apt to be causing this. Look at infections etc.

April 8, 2011 at 01:21 PM ·

Noel, I don't know if you were referring to my post as a "joke", but let me assure you I was not joking.  I have significant hearing loss in my right ear which was discovered quite by accident.  This prompted me to ask the Concertmaster about playing in an orchestra and hearing loss.  His answer told me that my situation needed addressing.

I use foam ear plugs right now.  Yes, they are uncomfortable.  No, they are not all that good, but they are better than nothing as I can't afford the good kind of ear plugs right now.

-----Ann Marie


April 8, 2011 at 02:28 PM ·

I have some ideas that may help.

Getting her a softer sounding practice violin is important. I am a big fan of the entry level Eastman violins ,because of there warm sounding and low volume qualities.Of coarse any violin will do as long as it is not loud ,tinny or,scratchy sounding.Violino strings and  Obligato rosin by Piastro will help with lowering the volume and add warmth.

April 8, 2011 at 03:42 PM ·

I responded earlier, but will add now that I have measurable noise-induced hearing loss and some tinnitus, age 67, fruits of too much time with noisy machinery and whatnot, and including a left ear that no doubt shows the effects of several decades of fiddle playing.  These kinds of hearing loss are cumulative and do not necessarily become obvious until much later in life, so taking it seriously when young will make a difference later on.

April 8, 2011 at 04:17 PM ·

Charles - do you use the softer sounding  violin for orchestra?  I could see where it would be beneficial for home, but when you are near the timpani and flutes, the noise can be quite loud, even if your violin is not.

-----Ann Marie

April 8, 2011 at 09:15 PM ·

If you haven't seen it, be sure to read Bernard Sherman's article titled "Losing Your Ears to Music: The hearing loss epidemic and musicians."  Although this problem hasn't affected me, and although I take reasonable precautions to prevent it, it's something that should concern us all -- musicians or not.  See also noise thread from 2-26-2011.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"... she [the OP's daughter] is such a light sleeper, that if a floor board creaks in our hallway she is awakened."

I recommend a compact high-velocity fan on the nightstand for white noise.  I use one 365 nights a year.  In colder weather, I pivot it toward the ceiling so that, although I hear it, I don't feel it.  It rocks me right to sleep and blocks out the occasional unwanted stray sounds.

April 11, 2011 at 12:12 PM ·

Last evening our orchestra performed and a Hearing Loss/Testing company was on site giving out literature to get tested as well as free ear plugs.  They were the soft kind that could be molded to fit your ear.  I have to say that they were quite comfortable, and did a great job.

---Ann Marie

April 11, 2011 at 12:54 PM ·


Make sure you specify small medium or large.


I keep a pair of these wedged between the strings in the scroll box so that they are always available. I have no doubt that the violin can cause hearing loss especially if you are playing loud high notes. Without any sort of hearing protection you should certainly have frequent breaks so that your ears can recover.

I find that if I'm playing in a loud environment that i put my ear closer to the violin to hear what I'm playing. Although I may be struggling to hear the volume my left ear is experiencing is pretty high. As I often play amplified I have found a better solution in this circumstance is to have a personal monitor which doesn't need to be particularly loud but the ear is not so close to the sound source. I do also use a Happinex which allows me to take my ear away from the violin somewhat.

Hearing loss from the violin is real. If your violin projects well then you are more at  risk.

April 11, 2011 at 05:16 PM ·


Etymotic Research makes a variety of earplugs (plus speakers, earbuds, etc.)  On their musicians earplug page, they have a checklist of the kind of earplug that best suits particular purposes and instruments.  During practicing, I use their inexpensive ($20, including shipping) earplug that is designed to keep the same frequency distribution for the sound, but drop the volume roughly in half.  They also have custom made ear plugs for musicians.  More information is at  www.etymotic.com/   Their earplug offerings are towards the bottom of that page.

May 5, 2011 at 03:05 AM ·

Update: My daughter's tests at the hearing clinic revealed a ever so slight drop of one pitch at a certain frequency. The physician testing her has asked us to monitor her hearing with an annual test. Her hearing is normal. He did strongly suggest that we invest in musicians plugs fitted to her ear and set at a certain db level for prevention of future loss.

Anyone else using these plugs that may have a response we would love to hear from you. My daughter hopes they are not itchy.

Best regards,


May 5, 2011 at 10:29 AM ·

I would look at food allergies if I was you. Milk allergies can cause vitamin deficiencies. The ear needs a lot of nutrition when playing the violin to keep them healthy.

Foods that are excellent for hearing.


Salmon, olive oil, spinach, yogurt, nuts and seeds are some of the foods I eat a lot of to protect my hearing and give me energy for practicing.. I also stopped drinking milk and switched to almond milk. I am allergic to milk, it was draining all my energy.

Look at her finger nail area and elbows for signs of poor, dry skin. Talk to you family doctor about food allergies that can cause hearing problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Foods that will harm your hearing

alcohol,       white-- breads, pasta  and rice.  refined white sugar, over cooked foods, over processed foods ,excessive salt and coffee. I put the alcohol and coffee in there for the others.

You can her a set of light ear muffs.

December 26, 2016 at 12:12 PM · I tried a moulded pair (I can't remember the brand), but the silicon was rather stiff, and the slightest movement of the jaw on the chinrest made them no longer airtight. I went back to the "earbud" type.

December 26, 2016 at 01:24 PM · A suggestion could be some custom made earplugs with a 10 or 15db filter in. I have some for the last 10 years and they are very comfortable and seems to lower all frequencys equally. It seems allright to just have one in the left ear.

google musicians earplugs

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