Best Ear Plugs: The Hottest Thing to Wear to the Club Is a Pair of Earplugs


Lately, my ears have been shocked by a once-familiar sensation: bass. Blame aging, or simply being out of practice after so many months of lockdown, but the piercing ringing in my ears I experienced a few hours of deliciously loud amplified music was worse than any hangover. And it might not just be me: “I think there’s going to be a heightened sense of sensitivity to loud sounds post-pandemic because everyone has been in quiet for the past year and a half, so now is a pivotal moment to be proactive about this,” says Dr. Julie Glick, an audiologist who runs Musicians Hearing Solutions in Los Angeles.

Coming home with ringing ears after a night out is nothing new, of course. Dance floors at clubs and live music venues typically hover around 95–105 decibels, which the CDC says can create hearing loss in as few as five minutes. “Even one exposure can cause a temporary reduction in hearing,” says Dr. Glick. “If you’re exposed over and over again, it’s too late by the time it gets to be severe. We lose our ability to hear high frequencies as a function of getting older, so it’s double damage.” 

Wearing earplugs is the best way to ensure you’ll hear all those crunchy mids and feathery trebles in the future. But a cheap pair over-the-counter earplugs can feel like a sacrifice: foam earplugs protect against dangerously high decibels by stuffing up the ear canal, creating air pockets that dampen sounds in the process. 

That’s why serious club-goers have gravitated towards custom silicone earplugs molded specifically to their anatomy. These can achieve extremely “flat” filters—as in, just as much treble gets shut out as bass. It’s the sound as the artist intended, just a little quieter. And outfits like Crystal Guardian, glitter-filled custom earplugs into the heart of New York’s nightlife community, are making wearing ear plugs to the club, dare we say it, cool

“Disposable foam earplugs do an excellent job of protecting you at the expense of compromising the music—it takes out all the high end and leaves the low end,” says founder Elliot Cash. “These are the closest thing to turning down the overall volume of music in the space you’re in.”

Cash launched Crystal Guardian in 2019 after a stint fabricating custom earplugs for a company in Manhattan. While custom earplugs can run as high as $300, Cash charges $100 per pair. Word quickly spread in the club community—then the pandemic shut down venues and Crystal Guardian followed. The one-person operation reopened in May of this year alongside clubs and a surge of new interest from professionals and amateurs alike.

“Tracks on big systems have been mastered and mixed to sound a specific way and I want to hear them that same way or the way the DJ is presenting them,” says Adi Dahiya, a DJ and party promoter who was fitted for a pair of Crystal Guardian earplugs at Nowadays’ popular daytime party Mister Sunday. “Because they fit into your ear so well, there aren’t any weird air pockets where the sound is muffled.”

Since the summer, Crystal Guardian has gone straight to the source, holding monthly pop-ups at progressive bars and clubs like Brooklyn Made, Mood Ring, Jupiter Disco, and Nowadays. Now, he’s busier than ever. Cash has also made custom earplugs for staff at each of these venues, along with DJs like Nowadays co-founder Eamon Harkin and Discwoman collective co-founder Umfang. “People shouldn’t have to be damaging their hearing while working, performing, or dancing at a show,” says Cash.



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