Occlusion effect is a more bassy hearing of one’s own voice when something is in the ear. You can experiment with this yourself but simply pushing the ears shut with fingers and humming.

Most earplugs are not linear in frequency reception, so, yes with foam earplugs, you might sound flat. There are several products that will can solve this. The best I’ve seen are Etymotic’s–preferably custom Musician’s earplugs or the less costly Musicians earplugs.

With the standard Musicians earplugs ($15 US), these will not get rid of occlusion, but music will sound great.

If getting custom made ones, request deeply inserted custom made earplugs ($225). These come with different filter strengths (5, 15, 25 db). The deep insertions will significantly reduce occlusion (I believe by over 85%). When shopping for deeply inserted custom earplugs, find audiologist who really knows what he or she is doing. These go deep into the ear canal.

Hearing is mental as well as physical. So, for example, if one puts in earplugs for some time, surprisingly, the ears will actually want to hear better, so mentally amplifies sounds. The earplugs will protect much of the physical frequencies coming in from the direction of the ear canal (but not the bassy sounds coming in from the bones). But, the ears mentally wants to hear better still.  So, I guess it’s possible that you will hear tinnitus (mental) even after wearing earplugs.

Anyhow, the answer is custom made, deeply inserted earplugs.   You can also reduce tinnitus by using nature sound machines.

>>>>Basically, the occlusion effect as I understand it is the resonance that builds in the ear canal when plugs or in-ears are worn, as sound is plugged like a tub inside. This can cause flat pitch perception, but more frighteningly, hearing damage. As you can imagine, the very reason I would wear/do wear ear plugs is to protect my hearing, so thinking I may do the opposite is really scary.

My last band practice I started without plugs (we don’t play that loud, but I am pretty close to the drums) and then I switched to plugs (some ones I found in my house, silicon, with the spiral cones, no attenuation add on far as I could tell) which gave me a a significant DB reduction. On the outside anyway. The thing is, I don’t know how accurately I was singing. It felt a lot better, I wasn’t straining at all because I could hear exactly (or I thought exactly) what was coming out. I know there is no way besides asking my band members (who were also mostly plugged) and recording to hear if my pitch was compromised. I suppose I could crank the vocals so I can hear them better from the outside.

But even if I am singing as well as I thought, it does not ease my concerns of the other component of the occlusion effect, hearing damage. I felt like my ears might have been ringing later that night, which is something that never happens when I play unplugged. If I am damaging my hearing from the inside from the resonance of my own voice, that is no good. Though, I guess it means my technique is fairly good, haha!

I noticed a couple threads on this topic, but it related more to the pitch perception side of things than the hearing damage (which as a musician and music enjoyer) is higher priority.

What are the experiences and opinions of our very own Modern Vocalist Forum members? Maybe you have this figured out. Maybe have some plugs you could… plug. Or maybe you have further worries you could impart onto me about this seemingly unavoidable hearing damage.


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