First of all, proud of you for asking this question. Protecting your hearing is a big deal and not often talked about by music festivals so being proactive towards harm reduction is a solid first step. As someone who has covered 100+ music festivals from the photo pit and from the crowd, other festies often ask me for recommendations. Here’s a sample of my earplug loadout for a typical festival weekend like Primavera Sound in Barcelona.
How To Determine Safe Listening Levels
According to the CDC: “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend maintaining environmental noises below 70 dBA over 24-hours (75 dBA over 8-hours) to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.”
The good news is that many festivals are required by cities to keep the noise limited to under 85 dB, which while still high, is not as damaging as less regulated festivals, but you should really be wearing protection and/or giving yours ears a rest from constant noise. I recommend downloading the free Sound Meter which is a quick and simple way to determine the noise level.
Ear Protection That I Personally Use
All of these listed earplugs listed below provide solid protection, take up almost no space, and are reusable. They can also be cleaned if they get too gunky from festival dirt and mud.
All-Around Festival Protection – EarPeace Music Pro ($39.99)
You will see these quite a bit in a press tent for a reason. They are affordable, super comfortable, and with three different tip sizes, you are sure to find one that fits your ear comfortably. I always have a pair of these in my pocket ready to slip on during super loud sets, crowded bar scenarios, and just about anytime I feel the need to give my ears a rest from general festival noise.
Photographing in the Pit – Decibullz Custom Molded Professional High Fidelity Earplugs ($79.99)
While slightly more expensive, these DIY moldable earplugs from Decibullz are my go-to for when I’m in the pit. They do require some pre-fest prep by heating and molding the plugs, but once the mold is dialed in, the fit is very solid and customized to your ear shape.
Always Carry Backup – Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs ($34.98)
Earplugs will get lost or forgotten, so I always have a backup on hand in my photo bag ready to go. These ones from Eargasm actually have two sets ready to go in the included carrying case.
Sleeping/Travel – EarPeace SLEEP ($19.95)
From late night ragers in the campground, drum and bass parties until dawn, and crowded hostel dorms, trying to find a bit of peace before the next festival can be tough – until you slip on these sleeping plugs and enter a world of near total silence. I’ve been using these all week at Primavera and they have just been incredible, especially for my very active and very festive neighbors on the the other side of a very thin wall.
Tips For Purchasing Ear Protection
-Try at least two different brands to test which one fits better. The one that you like the least can still be used as a backup or given to a friend.
-Wear your earplugs before the event. Try wearing them for at least 10 minutes in a crowded restaurant or a busy street to test for comfort.
-Expensive isn’t always the best. The best ear protection is that one that you are going to wear.
-But don’t go too cheap. While the classic foam earplugs will do in an emergency, they are meant to block most sound and will not help your overall music experience. Invest in ear protection from a product that’s dedicated to music.