A hi-fi philistine once asked me why old guys buy great sound systems when their hearing has inevitably been impaired by the ravages of time. For once I came up with an answer without having to think for half an hour and explained that hearing loss was the main reason why you need a better system when you’re older, you need more information to get the same enjoyment that you do with basic gear when you’re young. But it would be better if we looked after our hearing and thus could appreciate just how good modern audio technology can be. Audiologist Gisele Flower knows all about hearing protection, she runs Aid2Hearing and makes the in-ear monitors that musicians use to both protect their ears and hear what they are playing. Thanks to wireless technology this has become a standard system in live music today and you can see why when it gives musicians both better feedback and stops them going deaf.
Gisele specialises in working with musicians often visiting studios to do here work, be she also has a weekly clinic in Harley Street, London where she takes impressions of people’s ears and gets them made into custom in-ear monitors and/or noise protectors. She has made these for DJs, musicians and music lovers and has pictures of herself with Tom Jones, Peter André and Nik Kershaw among others on the wall. I met Gisele when she was at a CanJam show making ear impressions for potential Noble Audio customers, the company that makes custom fit in-ear monitors with some pretty wild styling. The point of custom moulding is that you get an earphone/plug that fits perfectly and remains comfortable for long periods, it provides a high degree of defence merely as a result of the fit. But as the chart below reveals you can choose how much reduction in sound pressure you want by means of a plug in filter system. The different levels of reduction have different responses and the best one for listeners is the one with the flattest response which in this range is 17dB, all the others have a rising response so treble is less attenuated than bass.
The process of having the impressions made is essentially a case of a squidgy material pushed into your ears and waiting for it to set, but Gisele has a look into your ears first to see if there’s a build up of wax and can provide a micro suction service to clean things up if necessary. It’s a little odd having the putty pushed into your ears and you need to sit in up to 30dB of isolation for a few minutes before the rubbery moulds are taken out. It then takes two weeks for the moulds to be turned into custom noise protection plugs which can be sent to you or you can return to London Hearing to learn how to fit them, which you’d think would be obvious but people have been known to get them the wrong way round.
The defenders are available in a range of colours but the most popular is transparent, which is what I went for, not being much of an ear jewellery enthusiast and all. The plan is to use them for amplified concerts, I have been to many such events over my life and have used cotton wool for the last two decades or more but sound pressure levels are not coming down and if I’m to enjoy my music collection in the future I realise that something more serious is required. The price for a pair of custom noise protectors is £189, which includes the cost of making the impressions, a small price to pay to protect the most important aspect of musical enjoyment; being able to hear it!
You can contact Gisele at aid2hearing.co.uk and londonhearing.co.uk