Music can remedy most ailments in life. But turn the volume up too loud and you’ve got a problem: loss of hearing. The World Health Organization reports that 1.1 billion people are at risk of hearing loss due to damaging levels of sound exposure from personal devices and loud settings, like rock ‘n’ roll concerts. Don’t stop the music—just do yourself a favor and protect your ears.
Maybe you already know that wearing earplugs is a good idea. But you don’t because they are uncomfortable, sound weird, and look even weirder. Get ready to throw all your excuses out the window and onto the dancefloor: Loop, a new earplug maker, protects your ears in style and comfort for just $30.
Designed specifically for listening to music, Loop uses an acoustic channel that imitates the function of your ear canal. At the end of this channel is an acoustic mesh filter that reduces sound by 20 decibels across all frequencies. The combination of the channel and the filter produces a clear sound and lets you enjoy the music without destroying your eardrums.
I tried out a pair at a rock show recently. The seven-piece band was playing 80s cover songs at an approximate volume of 80 decibels. Permanent hearing damage can occur at a sound level of 85 decibels; at music venues, sound levels often reach up to 100 decibels. Fifteen minutes of exposure to that kind of sound frequency can lead to irreparable hearing loss.
The Loops lowered the intensity of the volume, but didn’t smother it. The sound of the bass and drums reduced, while the singers’ voices and guitar riffs remained clear. Every now and again I’d remove the Loops from my ears. Experiencing loudness was fun for a few minutes, but the urge to slide my Loops back in came pretty fast. I reckon I enjoyed “Love Shack” as much as I ever do, which is a lot.
The Loops come with a little leather bag to store them inside your pocket or purse. This is a helpful because you never know when you might find yourself on the patio of an overpacked bar sitting directly next to some blaring speakers, like I did recently. To the relief of my ears, I put my Loops in. The volume knocked down just enough to make out my friend’s words and join in the conversation with ease.
A foreign object in your ear can only be so comfortable, especially when you’re trying to be thrifty. For an affordable pair of plugs, Loops do a good job at making your ears feel alright for a night. For one, the acoustic channel that sits on the external part of your ear, is made from hypoallergenic plastic, which means it won’t irritate your skin. They come with three sets of ear tips that you stick on the end of the acoustic channel. There’s a set of tips in size medium made from heat-activated memory foam, and two sets of soft silicon tips; one medium and one small. You can take them on and off yourself to get a feel for which one fits your ears best. I liked the memory foam, myself. Still, they became slightly uncomfortable after about 15 minutes of wearing them, so I stepped outside to take them out periodically. It’s a good idea to take breaks from loud music even when wearing ear protection.
Comfort and sound aside, what they’ve really got going on is style. As far as earplugs go, Loops are steezy as heck. The acoustic channel forms a ring that, when in your ear, looks like some kind of ear jewelry. You can get them in a range of colors, including “Raving Red” and “Glorious Gold” – although this is more more like silver with a tint of ombre. Regardless, after staring at your reflection in the bathroom mirror, you might fancy a conch piercing like never before. Be forewarned.
Correction on 5/29 at 1:10 ET: This review has been updated to correct a detail about the materials in the earplugs mentioned in the third paragraph. They include an acoustic mesh filter, not a foam filter.
Read more: http://www.wired.com/