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  1. Hi all, It has been a long while since I have written, but I have a topic that I think some of you will find interesting. I've developed tinnitus in my left ear over the past couple of years and while I do not have hearing loss, tinnitus can be caused by loud sound exposure. I recently got an I-watch and started getting loud-noise alerts when I practice or play at sessions/jams. I've now realized that practicing brings decibel levels into the 95-100 dB range and sessions regularly go above 100 to 103 dB or more. (ps the problem with fiddlers losing hearing is well known and they have 90 dB under their ear). Although I have used musician ear plugs before in large sessions, they made the sound muffled and the concertina sound all but dissappeared in a large setting. A musician friend told me about Loop earplugs that are calibrated to take out a range of frequencies with slightly more removed in high frequency ranges. I ordered the Engage (16 dcb removal), and have been practicing and playing with them for about a month. The earplugs work and I can hear myself in a session and I no longer feel worn out sound-wize after an hour or more of practice. I like that I am protecting my hearing in the long term, so I will keep using them. Here is the really wild part to me. In some ways I like it better, I can hear what I am doing better in a session and scary or not, I think it will change my playing because I am hearing differently. In a session, I have no problem hearing the instruments around me, except if a guitar is too far away it just sounds like a rhythmic jumble - I can't hear the chords as cleanly. My concertina sounds really different to my ear, the brightness, the reediness and button sounds on the notes is calmed down and the pure sounds come through. I hear the high and low notes, so the frequency seems to be consistently suppressed across the range (side note, I love all those raspy bits of the concertina, so I miss that). Strangely I feel hearing through the earplugs helps me connect the notes better because I can hear the little gaps. It also lets me control bellows better, ie the dynamics within a single note or phrase, because my ear is not maxed out with the sound. It feels like It seems harder to add chording, but maybe that will improve with time. I have to be careful to not play loud to compensate for the smaller concertina sound in my ear, but I am adjusting to that as well and my friends are helping reassure me that it is not too loud. (or any louder than normal haha). One other thing is that when I took them out at a session, I expected to hear myself better, but actually found that it was worse. There is just so much sound from all the players, that the relative volume of my instrument is no louder without the ear plugs than it is with them in and the cleaner sound with them in helped me have more control playing. I have yet to play with them at a gig and I am not sure I would want to do that because I want to hear all the nuances from myself and others. Even so, the fact that I have been conserving my hearing when I can makes me feel better about having some exposure to loud sounds at a gig. Has anyone else tried this? If so, can you share your thoughts about what you hear when "plugged" and if it affects your playing? All the best, Claire
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