University Of South Carolina





USC Marching Band Students

Big Ear will be back for the 4th year at USC.

We will be able to make impressions for your Custom Marching Band Hearing protection.

Payment will be taken at this time as well.

Monday, August 12: 9am-Noon
Wednesday, August 14: 4pm-5: 30 pm
Thursday, August 15: Noon-1pm


Why Do I Need Hearing protection?

Musicians around the world are suffering from hearing loss more than ever before as they have spent a lifetime without wearing any form of marching band hearing protection.

Surveys of universities reveal that more than 60% of band members suffer from tinnitus, or ringing in their ears, and more than 50% suffer from Noise-induced hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, loss of hearing has escalated over the past 20 years and shows no sign of slowing down.

Band members have an increased risk for hearing loss as they have spent a majority of their young lives playing loud instruments near each other and during this time they have been exposed to horribly dangerous and irresponsible decibel levels without being warned about the lifelong pain and discomfort that they may potentially face due to playing in the band. Most musical instruments used in marching bands produce sound levels ranging from 92 – 126 dB as shown below will if unregulated or protected against cause irreparable hearing loss and may have already caused you tinnitus (Ringing in the ears). 

Here are actual sound level meter readings from the practice field and at a football game.

Marching Band Sound level meter readingsMarching Band Sound level reading

USC Marching Band At a gameListening is everything


The Problem

Hearing protection companies have done a very poor job creating products that allow musicians to still hear their Balance, intonation, and note accuracy when playing a piece of music as a generic earplug or generic musician earplug creates an uncomfortable muffling effect. In order for any form of hearing protection to work, the players must understand when they should be wearing the protection and then wear it. Students should be cultivating the mindset that hearing protection is the most important piece of equipment (other than their instrument) they have. And unfortunately, because companies have opted for the quick cash grab, they have in turn muddied the waters and established a sub-par standard for hearing protection rather than providing a product that actually works.

The Solution

We were angered by the lack of foresight and the overall laziness on the part of hearing protection companies who at the time felt that mediocre filtered hearing protection left it up to the musician to adjust to their third-party product. In response to this, we spent five years traveling from place to place meeting and discussing hearing conservation with musicians and band Directors. We concluded that there was no form of marching band hearing protection that existed that could allow the musician to be comfortable with the earplug in their ears and not degrade the way that they hear the environment around them. The challenge was set.

Our team worked for months alongside Dr. Weiss, Director of Band, Dr.Thomas Bough and hundreds of musicians from the University of South Carolina, MSU and NIU, to come up with a solution.

We looked at what every individual musician needed from the piccolo to the drum line and developed a patented solution to give musicians total situational awareness while focusing on comfort and hearing protection.

The result was our Musician Earplug Trainer, a two-part non-linear and linear filtered earplug that allows the musician to be protected from decibels over 85 decibels while never being taken out of their immediate surroundings due to the plugged up feeling that earplugs give a performing artist. After releasing the product into the world, the feedback was outstanding and we refined the product to what it is now, little did we know we were in for a rude awakening.

Months passed and we decided to hit the road just like musical artists to promote our new product to bands across the country. However, what we found upon arrival at most of the universities that we visited was heartbreaking. Musicians were understandably wary of filtered earplugs as they had already been bitten once by bad filtered earplugs and most of the students that we saw had no hearing protection in their ears, many cited that our products were too expensive (which upon reflection, they are pricey but not completely unaffordable) while others claimed that they were not feeling any ill effects from the band and are happy not protecting their hearing.

This confounded us and we had an a-ha moment, maybe it’s not only the products themselves but the education around hearing conservation that is extremely lacking. From that point on we have made the education of proper hearing conservation our guiding light and with each school that we visit our goal is to not just sell a piece of equipment but to educate young and old performers on proper hearing conservation and increase the probability that you will be able to play your music comfortably for as long as you choose. 

What We Do

The process is straightforward. We visit your school and discuss the goals of hearing conservation that you have for your band. After, we take that information and create a custom-tailored installment plan for your specific needs. We have the ability to finance products and we make our products as easily as accessible as possible.

As music lovers, we want to do whatever is possible to protect band members and preserve music as a safe and honored tradition. We welcome you to assist us in that goal.

As we know all too well, there will still be a great majority of players who will choose to go without hearing protection when you play or a greater portion of you who will choose to suffer through generic poor fitting earplugs. While we here wish that we could make a set of our earplugs for every player we visit, that is just not a reality. What I can offer is a few tips on how to conserve your hearing starting right now.

  1. If you feel any sensation in your ears, speak up. Your section leaders and band directors are across the board caring people with a healthy appreciation for music and those who make it, so don’t ever feel like you are being bothersome if you talk to them about pain in your ears.
  2. Notice the times of your rehearsal when the music peaks and prepare yourself by having a cheap pair of foam earplugs to stick in for that overwhelmingly loud duration.
  3. Distance yourself from an unruly player. If there is a member of your band who is known to let off an extra loud trumpet, piccolo, alto sax, or drum solo after you finish a song, try to distance yourself from the blast zone and be aware of your surroundings.
  4. Hand in hand with tip number 3, talk to that person about their habit and politely ask them to be mindful of their fellow musicians around them.
  5. If you are taking any medication, talk to your doctor or school nurse about the interaction of the specific medications with decibel levels as there are hundreds of medications that can damage your inner ear hair cells and cause you permanent hearing damage.
  6. In the same light If you hear the word ototoxic followed by the name of a medication you are taking speak to your doctor and band director immediately
  7. If you hear for any reason at all ringing in your ears, address the sensation immediately with your section leader or band director.

Now that we have prepared you for life without our product, below this picture is a list of reasons why we believe you would benefit greatly from wearing what we provide.

Big Ear's The One M.E.T Select Series For Marching Band

(The One®) Select Series is the second tier selection in our M.E.T series. Furthering the idea of the standard set we wanted to give you multiple decibel reduction choices.


A list of the reasons why The One is right for you

1. It’s clear and not very visible which will reduce the comments of your peers.
2. Unlike cheap foamies and generic musician earplugs, the one does not hurt when you wear them all day as they are custom made to your ears.
3. By wearing them all day, you will reduce the chances of getting dosed if someone decides to blast their instrument during downtime in a rehearsal session.
4. Because of the dual filter system, you can hear everyone and everything around you clearly and not miss anything.
5. When you are playing, you can hear the color of the music and stay in beat and in tune with your fellow players.
6. When the full band is playing, you can hear your own instrument and your section while being protected from the massive decibels that you produce.
7. You will be protecting your most important investment, and that is your hearing. As you get better at your craft, you can be assured that you will have your hearing for the rest of your life.

We will be attending the opening camp day August 15 from 9am-6pm to make this hearing protection available for the students.

During this time we will make custom Impressions. The clear earplug is lab generated and takes 21 business day to build and ship. If you order the filtered earplugs you will receive our main specialized filter (a 20-decibel blue filter as seen in the picture below) that you can use in a generic earplug until your custom plugs arrive in the mail.

We take all form of payment and on the 15th we will be able to finance our hearing protection with a $50.00 down payment.

Recently we have developed a three-tiered product option kit for musicians that allows the player to have more flexibility in how they wish to protect their hearing.

The first is our Custom Musician Earplug Standard Series that comes with  One set of filters, a lanyard, a Big Ear-cup, and case. (Click the link to see the product on our website)

How the One works.



The One Standard series

Custom Musician EarPlugs

Filtered Earplugs For Musicians. Allows the musician to hear their music and others around them while eliminating the plugged up feeling of earplugs while playing.










The second tier is the select series that includes an extra filter set so you can adjust the decibel levels that you reduce. The orange set in the picture below is a 25-decibel reduction, we also have a green 15 dB reduction and a purple 9-decibel reduction.


Marching Band Hearing Protection “Select series”

Big Ear's The One M.E.T Select Series For Marching Band

(The One®) Select Series is the second tier selection in our M.E.T series. Furthering the idea of the standard set we wanted to give you as more choices to protect yourself.










The Third Choice is our marching band hearing protection premium set with all 4 sets of filters for all your needs. (9 dB, 15 dB, 20 dB and 25 dB) Filters, one pop chord two filter plugs and a tactical piece with a rugged case.


Marching Band Hearing Protection Premium Series


Filtered Ear Plugs, Custom, Musician earplugs, Tactical Pieces, Rugged Case

The magnum opus of our Met Series, with all four filters, one pop chord, one tactical piece two filter plugs and a rugged carrying case this is the best money can buy










We wish you the best this season and if you have any questions you can contact us at any time via the website or the phone number 719-271-9081 or email us at If you wish to have a different selection of filters with your filtered set simply specify which one you would like when you have your impressions made.


Trumpet Player Testimonial



Alto Sax Testimonial



A second Trumpet testimonial



marching band

Hearing Loss: The Importance of Noise Prevention for Today’s Musicians and Marching Band Members

A Big Ear, Inc. White Paper Regarding the Risk and Reward of Hearing Protection For College Musicians and Marching Band Members


Over 2 million students in the United States play in middle and high school bands. 300,000 of those students go on to play in college bands. Until recently, the noise levels that these students were exposed to went unnoticed as well as the repercussions associated with the resulting damage to their young ears.

Band instruments are handled with care and precision, and we believe your hearing should be treated as your most important instrument. Today’s marching band students face many risks when it comes to noise-induced hearing loss. In many cases excess exposure to every day decibels cause students to miss their cue, play the wrong note, or fail to notice that their tone is flat or sharp. Along with losing a scholarship due to being unable to perform, or having to give up music, the greater risk is the irreversible damage to their hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is irreversible. But the positive note is that it is entirely preventable.

In this document, we will cover the risks that college band members are taking without proper ear protection. We’ll cover the effects of being exposed to high decibel levels over time and look at the reward earned by protecting young ears with earplugs that will not compromise the sound quality of the music.

How your ear works?

When sound waves pass through the outer ear, they travel through the ear canal to the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates with the incoming sound, sending vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear: the malleus, incus, and stapes bones. These bones amplify the vibrations and send them to the inner ear. Miniscule hair cells in the inner ear are activated and release neurochemical messengers to your brain. The auditory nerve carries the signal to the brain and translates it into a sound you can understand.

What is a decibel?

The sound is measured in decibels (dB). A decibel is the unit of sound used to express the length of a sound wave and measures the degree of loudness. Quiet conversations among 2-3 people are usually 40 to 50 decibels. A loud, noisy restaurant registers at 80-90 decibels, and in the case of a marching band, a typical rehearsal can range from 90 to 115 decibels. After 4-5 hours in loud environments measuring 80-90 decibels, damage to your ear begins. Industrial work environments experience occupational noise-induced hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud noise over an extended period.

Similarly, musicians damage their ears with loud practice environments, stadium noise, concert arenas, and heightened acoustic surroundings. The noise measurement in an average middle school and high school orchestra and band exceeds 110 decibels. In comparison, the threshold for pain is 120 decibels. Collegiate band programs fall in the 115-decibel range, and marching band can exceed 130 decibels daily.

These high decibel levels damage the ear every practice and performance. Take it a step further, and add in the stadium noise marching bands and pep bands play over, and the decibel levels increase.

We get many scornful and skeptical faces from students who believe that they are safe because they have been playing for many years and they have felt no substantial change in their hearing. The painful truth is that noise-induced hearing loss is cumulative. Damage to the ear depends on the duration and intensity of exposure as well as the intensity, or loudness, of the sound. Band students are susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss due to the long practice hours with loud instruments and exposure to high decibel levels.

Measured decibel levels in music

The measured decibel levels below represent individual instruments and the sound levels they produce. In a solo capacity, such as personal practice times in small enclosed practice rooms, damage to the ear begins after about 2-3 hours.

In a group capacity such as marching band, concert band, ensemble, and orchestra, the damage begins much earlier:

InstrumentAverage Sound Level
Violin75-85 dB
Flute85-111 dB
Clarinet92-103 dB
French Horn90-106 dB
Trombone85-114 dB
Tuba110-115 dB
Timpani/Bass Drum106-110 dB
InstrumentAverage Sound Level
Cello84-103 dB
Oboe90-94 dB
Saxophone110-115 dB
Mellophone92-112 dB
Trumpet/Cornet108-120 dB
Snare Drum100-115 dB
Cymbals118-121 dB
Standard Noise LevelDamage to ears exposure limit
Marching Band85-115 dB15-20 minutes
Concert Band85-100 dB1 hour 30 minutes
Orchestra/Symphony80-105 dB2 hours
Drumline90-110 dB10-20 minutes

According to a 2003 study performed at Duke University, sound levels measured both indoors and outdoors, with and without percussion showed students were exposed to noise that exceeds 100.

As a result of the study, Duke University band members are now required to wear earplugs.

How does overexposure to loud music affect college students?

Typically, college musicians begin college with eight years of musical experience and exposure to loud sounds. Practicing for at least one hour per day, 3-5 days per week in an environment that exceeds a safe noise level over stimulates the cochlea or inner ear. At the collegiate level, practice and performance time increases as does the performance frequency. Additionally, an event and arena environments, students are exposed to crowd noise and generally play louder to compensate.

Damage to the inner ear has already begun and increased frequency and loudness associated with an increase in practice and performance expected at the college level increase the damage to the ear’s hair cells.

What is noise-induced hearing loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, is described as an impairment to one’s hearing as a result of exposure to loud sound. Its symptoms range from a loss of sound frequency range to a change in perception of noise and sound, tinnitus, sound sensitivity, and total loss of sound.

NIHL can occur from repeated exposure to loud sounds, as well as short exposure to loud noises. The damage occurs over time affecting the hearing hair cells, or stereocilia. These cells do not regenerate causing permanent damage to the ear. When the stereocilia are damaged, suffers report distorted sounds, muffled noises, ringing in the ears, difficulty hearing in crowds and difficulty hearing on phone conversations.

The risk and effects of noise-induced hearing loss in musicians

The most challenging issue regarding noise-induced hearing loss is the lack of immediate symptoms. NIHL gradually affects the ability to hear. Symptoms and side-effects are not recognized typically until years later. However, studies show that a loss of hearing leads to an increase in the chances of illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In the immediate present, damage to one’s ear due to loud noises can impact a college musician both physiologically and psychologically causing:

  • The ears’ hair cells (stereocilia) to be bent or broken permanently
  • Sound to seem dampened/muffled causing musicians to play sharp/flat
  • Missed cues
  • Depression from losing a scholarship or not passing
  • The trouble with social interactions leading to situations of social isolation
  • Tinnitus
  • Loss of cognitive focus
  • Drop in grades

OSHA Noise Regulations (Standard 1910.95(b) (1))requires employers to monitor sound if it equals or exceeds 85 decibels and provide individuals with protective equipment such as earplugs or noise-canceling earphones when employees are exposed to noise levels.

Permissible Noise Exposures OSHA Standards 1910.95(B)(2)

Table G-16

Duration per day (hours)Sound level (dBA slow response)

The numbers in the table above are designed for industrial and occupational employers and employees subjected to loud machinery and noises. Yet, if you look at the permissible exposure times and decibel levels and compare them with the time and sound levels in a college band environment, you’ll notice that most often, students are exposed to noises 100 dB and above for over 2 hours at a time, exceeding the daily noise exposure limits. Without standard regulations in place for musicians, noise-induced hearing loss reported by patients who are musicians will continue to increase.

How to prevent noise-induced hearing loss?

The only way to cure NIHL is to prevent it. College band members can prevent noise-induced hearing loss by taking preventive measures such as requiring earplugs. Until recently, this was an unacceptable solution as the market only consisted of foam earplugs or generic silicone earplugs that fit poorly, canceled too much sound, dampened intonation, and distorted sound. As such, musicians neglected to protect their hearing.

To combat these issues, Big Ear, Inc. developed The ONE® and they are custom-built Hearing Protection which:

  • Are custom-fit to the individual’s ear for protection and comfort
  • Acclimate musicians to the use of earplugs.
  • Are designed to attenuate across all sound frequencies
  • Have a dual filter system
  • Are constructed with soft-fit material
  • Come with three restriction orifices to gradually train the ear to the earplug, thus eliminating muffled sounds and distorted tones.
  • Come with a removable pop-cord

The ONE® is the only product currently on the market designed to allow the musician to hear both themselves and others in a clear manner without limiting spatial awareness.

How The ONE® works?

The ONE® trains the ear to adapt to earplugs. The two-filter system consists of a nonlinear filter system and an interchangeable filter. The three interchangeable orifices allow the user to reduce the sound they hear. The filters are designed to adapt to the student’s practice and performance environment reducing noise levels by 9 dB, 15 dB, 20dB, and 25 dB.

Premium Dentist Custom Earplugs {The One®}

A removable pop cord can pop in and out while you’re training on the field. The noise reducing plugs give you a scalable solution to train your ears to a manageable decibel level until you graduate to the smooth continuation filter.

The ONE® has multiple mini-orifices that the user can gradually add to the non-linear filter. Each time a plug is inserted, the sound is reduced. This action trains the ear to earplugs, removing distortion and spacial awareness problems. By training the ear, the individual eliminates the traditional problems associated with generic, non-customized earplugs. Sounds, notes, and tones remain as clear as they were without the earplugs, but at a lower decibel level and without the risk of damage to the stereocilia.

Who uses The ONE®?

  • University of South Carolina
  • University of Delaware
  • Newberry College
  • Michigan State University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • University of Nebraska
  • College Band Directors National Association
  • Many, many others.

The reward for wearing earplugs

The benefits for musicians who wear earplugs span their entire lifetime.

Some of the rewards include:

  • A noise-induced hearing loss is prevented
  • Hearing impairment conditions are reduced
  • Harmful sound frequencies are filtered out without jeopardizing the quality
  • Scholarships and chair placements are not at risk
  • Can be worn with marching band hats or headgear comfortably


Extensive research has shown conclusive evidence that injuries sustained in contact sports causes irreversible brain damage. As a result, policies have been put in place to protect students and players. Why have we stopped there? If the lid has been cracked on the damage that young men and women are being exposed to without their consent, in what other areas are they being injured?

Until recently, little was known about noise-induced hearing loss and while the ignorance excuse may work for a few more years, don’t wait for more evidence of NIHL to protect your hearing. As a musician, it is your most important instrument. Wearing earplugs protects ears from irreversible damage and associated health complications later on in life.

Best earplugs for musicians retain spatial awareness at reduced decibel levels and offer a comfortable fit for maximum hearing protection.


  • United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Regulations (Standards-29 CFR), Subpart D-Occupational Health and Environmental Controls, 1910.95 (a). Web. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  • United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Regulations (Standards-29 CFR), Subpart D-Occupational health and Environmental Controls, 1910.95 (b). Web. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  • Beltone. Hearing Loss is Now Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia, n.d. Web. Accessed August 3, 2017.
  • Cohen, Joyce. Marching band—A Threat to Hearing? USA Today, October 17, 2007.
  • What is Hearing Loss? How Do We Hear? Your Medical Source, Health Information Publications. Web. Accessed August 2, 2017.
  • Keefe, Joseph. Noise Exposure Associated with Marching and Pep Bands. Duke University. n.d. Web. Accessed August 3, 2017.

Check Our Marching Bands & Musician Earplugs