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4strings

Real cannons INDOORS! Hearing protection?

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Just got an email from our conductor, who says the April "Ode to Freedom" concert, featuring Beethoven No. 9 and Wellington's Victory, is going to be staged with real cannons (Civil War re-enactment folks firing), placed in the boxes to the right and left of the stage, and therefore right above my head. He says they'll be supplying ear plugs, but I bet they're going to be those little foam plugs. These have certainly been helpful, as far as I can tell, when we've had guitar players with big fat amps in the middle of the orchestra. But I wonder how effective they truly are. This whole scenario scares me.

Does anyone know what attenuation is attained with well-seated foam plugs? Should I hurry up and find somewhere to order more effective ones? Recommendations for where to get some, if necessary? I don't have time (or money) for a custom-fit appointment.

I'm not worried about not being able to hear all the frequencies, or getting all the feedback I normally get from my instrument and those around me. I just want protection.

Thanks in advance for the best practical advice you can give--

Joan

[Who is wondering if this is our conductor's idea of an April Fool's joke.... but even if it is, it would be helpful to know how protective those foam plugs are....]

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Foam plugs are not much good. Assuming this cannon thing is for real, I see two options for cheap hearing pro.

First is to go to your local shooting sports emporium, and look for a set of earplugs there. There's a type that has a metal capsule within a latex (or some kind of rubber) plug. This little canister has a baffle that is sprung open; when a gunshot's compression wavefront hits the little diaphagm, it overcomes the springing and closes the aperture into the ear canal. It's not much good against steady noise, but helps a lot with the more percussive stuff.

Second is a set of decent earplugs. Etymotic makes what they term "high fidelity" earplugs that provide 20 dB of protection, but do not greatly distort the audible spectrum. These run about 10 bucks a pair, and can be ordered online. They also do the molded plugs, with inserts that can provide different levels of suppression, from 5 dB to 15 dB. So you can have, say, 10dB attenuation in your left ear, to keep your fiddle from eroding your hearing, and 5 dB inthe right ear, or any mix that meets your needs. Of course the molded plugs are pricey.

There was a long thread about this sort of thing here recently; I'm too lazy to look it up for you.

I've bought several sets of the cheap etymotics. They're great for the kind of gathering where the music or noise is loud enough that conversation is impossible. My granddaughter, who has a screamer of a violin, wears one in her left ear when she plays.

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Thanks lots, Bob. The cannon thing was an April Fool's joke, as on second and third reading I decided it must be.

I too tried to find that long thread, and tried two or three search strings, but couldn't seem to be clever enough to remember the right words to bring it up. So I thought I'd ask again.

In spite of the lack of necessity for speed, I'm still going to go to Etymotic and look for some of those plugs. Thanks for that lead too. They should be useful for the occasional loud gig, not to mention the lawnmower...

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OK, I found it. A thread called "violins and hearing loss", a page or two below the current page in this category (The Fingerboard)

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Just for the record, most foam plugs (the kind that compress and uncompress slowly) actually have very high attenuation, and generally too much for music settings. It is important to know how to fit them in properly. I hope it was a joke, otherwise it is an absolute certainty that some unprotected listeners or musicians would suffer permanent hearing damage from indoor cannons. If it were indeed true, the producers would be guilty of gross negligence, and should be stopped by any means necessary.

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Given the stupidity I have seen first hand (and more than a few times), such a scenerio does not seem unlikely. I recall watching Santa Claus parade some years ago. A float went by with an absolutely ear shattering P.A. system pumping out music leveled at the watchers. On the float and between the watchers and the monitors sat several children mere arms length from these tinnitus inducing apparatuses. I must confess I still have much guilt at not stopping the float. Having tinnitus changes your perspective of things, and one desires to prevent others from suffering from it. If I saw the same thing happen today, I would personally pull the plug.

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I don't think it's likely. The orchestra here does the 1812 Overture every July with live artillery (outdoors, of course) and for safety/liability reasons no one but the National Guard is allowed within a certain distance of the cannons. There's a pretty big buffer zone on the sides and a huge one in front. There's not space to duplicate that indoors, even if someone were crazy enough to want to try it.

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Quick reply, just to say it was indeed an April Fool. Also, it is interesting (and good) to know the foam plugs have a fairly high attenuation - any idea how much? I think even though they're "just" foam, they saved my sanity a couple of years ago when I took my teens to a rock concert. The level of noise in there stimulated a fight-or-flight reaction in me, and only the ear plugs made it possible for me to endure. (Of course I made the kids wear plugs too.)

I don't even like to listen to music turned up loud in my home. My husband wonders how I can stand playing in symphony, and thinks my sensitivity to sound coming from speakers is inconsistent. But I feel that in the orchestra, the sound feels more dispersed and less intensely directed. Probably I should still wear some kind of plugs, but as I'm on the outside edge of the firsts, it's not as bad as when I've been more in the interior of the group.

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Some foam plugs come in at 30dB reduction or more. I have tried at least a dozen different products over the years. These are my new favorite for simplicity, comfort, and least objectionable sound change (for an off-the-shelf non-musical plug):

http://www.hearingportal.com/p...s/products2.asp?id=10

They are also the first plug I have seen that have a practically flat profile with no protrusion. The edge can be grasped for removal.

The ER products largely do what is claimed. I have the custom fit and the one size fits all. One problem with the custom fit plug is that fluctuations in ones weight can occasionally influence the fit (yes ears in fact can loose weight) but I would not let that stop you from getting them as they are much more comfortable than the one size fits all. You might want to drop 10 pounds before fitting.

One thing never mentioned by plug manufacturers or even hearing experts is to use caution in inserting and removing. Go slow, as there is significant air compression/decompression force within the ear canal.

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