An Acoustical Analysis of the Frequency-Attenuation Response of Musician Earplugs Page: 5
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Citation: Chesky K, Amlani AM (2015) An Acoustical Analysis of the Frequency-Attenuation Response of Musician Earplugs. Commun Disord
Deaf Stud Hearing Aids 3: 127. doi:10.4172/2375-4427.1000127
Page 5 of 5
The findings from this study are critically important because they
suggest that the special claims used to market MEPs to musicians and
music schools are misleading. We believe that the discrepancies for
claiming flat attenuation characteristics in response to musical stimuli
are related, in part, to the use of the REAT procedure. While the
current study did not assess perception of timbre, dynamics, or other
factors that may be considered critically important to musicians, the
protocol did involve music stimuli along with an objective analytic
technique sufficient for understanding how an earplug changes the
spectral nuances associated with music. The Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) states that "Any manufacturer wishing to make claims
regarding the acoustic effectiveness of a device, other than it noise
reduction ratings, must demonstrate the validity of such claims,
including the presentation of test data and the specific methods used
to validate the claims" (Federal Register/Vol. 74, No 149, pg 3986). The
REAT procedure is not a valid procedure for supporting the existing
claims used in marketing MEPs to audiologists, musicians, and music
The findings are also important because they show that the non-
custom-fit MEPs sold under the name of ER-20, ETY, HEAROS,
Fender Touring, and VICEARPLUG do not protect the user at the
stated levels. The deficiency of attenuation provided by the ER-20
earplug is further illustrated in panel D of Figure 2. Marketing
materials report an NRR of 12 but claim that the user can expect 20 dB
of attenuation when the plug is used correctly . In addition to
showing the dramatic influence of the ER-20 on the spectral
characteristics of the music stimuli, the protocol used in this study also
revealed that the ER-20 offers less than 5 dB of attenuation while
utilizing a best-fit scenario. The disparity in attenuation levels, we
believe, is explainable by the fact that the REAT procedure does not
measure or account for energy levels below 125 Hz. or between octaves
as specified in the REAT procedure. Highlighting the significance of
this measurement deficiency, and as shown in Figure 5, the ER-20
earplug failed to attenuate sounds at frequencies below 100 Hz. The
authors believe that these findings point to a critical need for
measurement protocols and reporting standards for earplugs
specifically marketed to musicians, public schools, and schools of
music. This standard should oblige manufacturers to provide data that
are essential for understanding how an earplug responds to musical
sounds and in a manner that the average lay user can understand and
apply to their everyday listening environment.
Attention towards hearing conservation in musician populations
has greatly increased over the past decade. Research and education
, along with national recommendations through the Health
Promotion in Schools of Music project , have led to recent and
historically significant changes to the health and safety accreditation
standards for over 600 college and university music programs
accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music .
Because college level programs are now obligated to educate future
music professional about hearing health, students majoring in music
education will bring and apply this knowledge into the public school
setting. While these national initiatives offer unprecedented
opportunities for those interested in the relationships between music
and hearing health, the results of this study demonstrate an urgent
need for robust protocols designed specifically for evaluating and
labelling earplugs intended for and marketed to musicians. The REAT
testing protocol is not a valid test for developing critical information
about how an earplug modifies musical stimuli or how musicians
perceive these changes. New protocols should incorporate music,
musicians, and context specific scenarios that included perceptual
testing. More broadly, the results of this study should prompt critical
examinations of other hearing conservation protocols used for music
but were developed for use in industrial audiology. New testing
protocols and innovations will have a positive impact on the on-going
transformation of the music discipline.
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Commun Disord Deaf Stud Hearing Aids
ISSN:2375-4427 JCDSHA, an open access journal
Volume 3 . Issue 1 . 1000127
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Chesky, Kris S. & Amlani, Amyn M. An Acoustical Analysis of the Frequency-Attenuation Response of Musician Earplugs, article, January 16, 2015; Los Angeles, California. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1042574/m1/5/: accessed June 14, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, UNT Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Music.