Signing your child up for music lessons is one of the most generous things a parent can do — after all, it’s the parents who are going to have to suffer through all the racket while they practice! Often, we’ll even hear from these parents, who are looking for something that can block out the sound of their son or daughter learning the opening drums to Master of Puppets. But really: what kind of hearing protection is your child wearing? Ear plugs or earmuffs are pretty much compulsory if your child is learning the drums, but it’s considered less of an issue if it’s the guitar, piano, or other classical style of instrument.
We think this is a big mistake.
After all, the noise reverberating in a small practice space like a bedroom or garage can still cause damage to your ears. In addition, any instrument, even the smallest flute, can still produce a sound capable of causing permanent damage, particularly for children and young adults — whose hearing is at its most sensitive.
Remember: hearing damage is compounding, damage recorded at the beginning of one’s life will only aggravate and get worse as they get older. For children who are musically inclined, protecting their ears early and effectively is a surefire solution to ensuring a lifetime of music appreciation. Before we begin, a few tips:
- For younger children, say thirteen and below, look for child sized plugs. Their ear canals are smaller, requiring a smaller plug for maximum comfort. Many great music plugs (such as the MusicMate or Pluggies) come in a child, small, or petite size — making them an excellent choice for your child.
- Once they’re a teen, it’s still important they wear plugs, but you could begin to consider adult sizes, particularly if they’ve had their growth spurt.
- The level of hearing protection matters and you should vary it in line with the kind of instrument they play. Drums, for example, will always need the highest level of protection, while something like a piccolo or violin can use something a little lighter. A great person to discuss with is your child’s music teacher, they’ll often have insight into the level of volume your child is being exposed to (you can also contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Best for: younger children aged 3-12, louder instruments.
Key feature: really high level of hearing protection, up to 30dB of protection
There’s no limit to how early your child can start music lessons: as long as they can hold the instrument, they’re ready to go! But this only makes it more important to have the right kind of hearing protection — our ears are never more sensitive than when we’re young, and Alpine have catered to this fact with the Pluggies, a great multi-functional children’s plug that’s water-safe, ear safe, and great for music lessons.
It’s got up to 30dB of hearing protection built in, which is on the stronger side. This makes it appropriate for louder instruments or for situations where you know your child is practicing in a small or confined area. They’re made with a thermo-shape material that uses the natural heat of the body to conform to the shape of the ear, this makes them a flexible plug appropriate for children from three to twelve. There’s no silicone in the tip, so these are hypoallergenic, comfortable for sensitive ears, and very low pressure. They are very easily forgotten when worn, they’re just that light.
In terms of filters, the AlpineAcousticFilters are sensitive, still allowing you to hear conversation and your instrument while worn — they essentially work to lower the volume of whatever it is your child is doing, allowing them to practice for longer while keeping their ears safe. As an added bonus, these can be used in the pool and have also been used by children with autism or sensory processing disorder as a way of making the chaotic school environment more tenable.
Best for: Children ages 12 and up.
Key feature: medium strength hearing protection around SNR 23dB makes it appropriate for all but the loudest instruments.
As your child gets older, you want a plug that’s going to take care of their ears in that stage leading up to adulthood. The Earjobs MusicMate, rated for children ten and up, is a great solution for this period. It’s a lower level of sound protection when compared to the Pluggies, but this medium strength plug will be more than sufficient for all but the loudest instruments. Rated at SNR 23 with high fidelity acoustic filters, the MusicMate is going to effectively reduce the volume of your child’s instrument, getting it within safe parameters without compromising the quality of the sound. They will still be able to make subtle adjustments in how they play and listen to the guidance of their teacher, all while protecting their ears.
The MusicMate is a music first ear plug so it’s not going to be useful in the water, but it will be appropriate for concerts, live performance, music lessons, and has also been used as a classroom and playground plug to lower the volume. For some students with sensory processing disorders, sensitive ears, or autism, a plug like the MusicMate will become useful in a variety of noisy circumstances. It comes with a rugged aluminium carry case which can attach to a keyring or to the metal loop on the backpack or belt, meaning it’s going to be lost and found proof.
Best for: Teenagers or kids with an early growth spurt.
Key feature: Adjustable filters mean you can control the level of sound blocking.
A major advantage of Alpine’s MusicSafe range is that they include multiple filters, allowing your child to set their level of hearing protection to something appropriate for their situation. For example, they may prefer a medium strength plug for lessons or practice sessions, preferring a higher degree of protection for live performance or settings where they are exposed to larger scales of sound. Alpine are notable for the high quality of their acoustic filters, offering a rich quality of sound across all frequencies, and a snug and comfortable fit. The Thermo-Shape material uses body heat to fit the ear cleanly, creating a high level of protection every time it’s worn.
Unlike the two plugs discussed before, the Alpine is primarily an adults plug. It is appropriate for teen-aged children but you should not use it for the youngest children. It’s a great solution for the tail end of their school musical careers, however, granting two levels of hearing protection along with filters that guarantee the sound of your instrument and your teacher’s voice.
An instrument is a great pastime for your child but it should be pursued safely and that means taking care of your ears particularly when practicing in small, reverberating music studios. A good set of high fidelity musician’s plugs in a children’s size is an easy investment that pays dividends over the course of your child’s music career, allowing them to practice for longer and guaranteeing their hearing in the process.