Concerts and music festivals are exhilarating, insanely fun, magical and… loud. It really doesn’t matter the venue — a basement, mid-size club, ballroom, stadium or huge, open field — live music usually leaves concert-goers with ringing in their ears. This bothersome sound isn’t limited to concerts, though. We blast the songs we love when they come on in the car, party playlists are often so loud we have to yell so the people next to us can hear what we say. While it’s all part of the joy of listening to and being surrounded by music, it can have detrimental long-term effects on hearing.
Musicians are well aware of these dangers since, on stage, they hear the music blaring from the speakers louder than anyone else. So, they wear ear plugs. They have to.
But it’s nowhere near as commonplace among audiences to use hearing protection, and it’s high time we started taking our hearing health more seriously. Jay Clark realized in 2010 just how important it is to protect our hearing and decided to take this revelation a step further by founding his own company to bring affordable, high-quality hearing protection to the masses in the form of EarPeace.
20 Watts: What inspired the creation of EarPeace?
Jay Clark: I spent an ear drum bruising 3 days dancing next to 18 wheelers converted to speaker stacks in Trinidad’s Carnival. Recuperating on a Tobago beach I realized the ringing in my ears was louder than the waves. I turned to my girlfriend and said there had to be a better solution than foam earplugs and the idea was born. 3 months later I had started the company and 18 months after that I launched at SXSW in 2010.
20 Watts: Why is hearing protection important?
J.C.: The average rock concert is about 110 dB. At that volume your ears are safe for less than 4 minutes before you start to experience damage to extremely delicate aural structures that enable you to hear. Prolonged exposure results in hearing loss. Hearing loss is permanent. Hearing loss is frustrating, isolating, and not sexy. Hearing protection will keep you safe Don’t go deaf!
20 Watts: What is your relationship with music?
J.C.: I have been listening to music non-stop since I was born. My parents were both audiophiles and they instilled that in me. Music is entertainment. It’s dance. It’s meditation. It’s art. Music brings us together. Music is culture. Music has the power to heal. I believe we all have a relationship with music even if we don’t know it.
20 Watts: What was the best concert you ever attended?
J.C.: I still think the best concert I ever went to was before I even got out of college. The Metallica Black Album tour – Enter Sandman. There was a major electrical short, the pyrotechnics all went off at once – the whole stage was on fire. The band members literally jumped off the stage to save themselves. The lights in the arena went out. Generators kicked in, emergency lights came on, the PA told everyone to sit tight until they figured out what to do. We waited. And then a few utility bulbs dropped down from the cat walks. New speakers were lowered and brought up. They plugged into the emergency power. Did 3 minutes of testing. And they finished the show. It was epic.
20 Watts: There’s a common misconception that hearing protection is just for concerts. What are some other situations in which someone might use EarPeace?
J.C.: There are environments where everyone should wear hearing protection — period, full stop. Any industrial environment where the dB levels are over 85 requires protection. Anytime someone is using power tools like a power saw or even a lawnmower. The shooting range. If you’re working on a runway. Basically any time there is impulse noise (e.g. gunshot) or prolonged loud sound (e.g. a construction site). It also depends on how sensitive your ears are. We get feedback all the time that people can go back to the movies or Church because of EarPeace.
20 Watts: What separates EarPeace from other companies geared towards hearing protection?
J.C.: Simply, we have a better product. I have been working with the same manufacturers the entire time we’ve been in business and the quality control is nearly perfect. The materials we use are professional grade. The acoustic filters – the part of the ear plug that does the work to turn down the volume – go through 3 different manufacturing steps to ensure they are precision crafted. EarPeace really delivers. We are also unique in the industry in terms of how we work with the entertainment space. For example, we are partnered with Red Bull and manufacture a customized product for them that they gift and sell at their Sound Select events. We also manufacture Metallica’s hearing protection merchandise that they sell at shows. We know that young people especially will listen to the bands and brands they love before they listen to us. We see many more people adopt a healthy hearing lifestyle as a result.
20 Watts: What was involved in the process of creating the actual, physical products?
J.C.: I drafted a product design plan and executed it. I bought every product on the market. Read every patent. Hired a crack audiologist to help me with the design. Once we had a design that we were comfortable with I spent several months in China locking down manufacturers for the various components and developing actual manufacturing processes to deliver the kind of precision filters we wanted. It took nearly a year from start to finish.
20 Watts: What are your hopes for EarPeace?
J.C.: I hope we make everyone’s party better. That’s our brand promise – EarPeace will improve your live entertainment experience. I hope we continue to be a catalyst for change in terms of how people consider their hearing health. It’s a lonely state of affairs to have hearing loss. It’s also completely preventable. Hearing loss is one of the leading cost centers for health care. If we can do something meaningful to bring the nation’s long term health costs down – we’ve really done something we can feel good about.
In order to continue to enjoy the music we love in the way we want to, it’s important that we don’t take for granted our ability to hear it in the first place. Hearing protection is for everyone, whether you go to one concert a year or find yourself at shows every weekend. Foam earplugs are a great place to start, but companies like EarPeace make sure products of outstanding quality are accessible to the people who most need them.