Who hasn't ever come home from a show with their ears ringing? Most of the time, we take it as a sign of a good time—one that fades by morning. But what we don't like to think about is the fact it's also a warning sign. Because the grim truth is, one day it might not fade; and once you have it, hearing damage is irreversible. Detroit techno producer Carl Craig is one of many tinnitus sufferers—he's spoken out about listening to recordings of Tibetan singing bowls and practicing meditation to alleviate the symptoms. Sometimes all it takes is one tipping point to irrevocably damage your hearing: last year, house pioneer Lil Louis had his career thrown into jeopardy when someone blasted an air horn inches from his left ear, causing permanent hearing loss. And it can happen at any age: a couple of years ago, Grimes was forced to cancel a string of European tour dates after having problems with hearing loss and tinnitus, telling her fans she needed to urgently limit her exposure to loud music (she was only 24 at the time).
If preventative measures are all we have, then it’s about time ear plugs at clubs and shows lost their stigma and became cool—because the alternative is scary, to say the least. As festival season approaches fast, The FADER spoke to nine artists and DJs who spend their lives in loud environments to find out what kind of plugs they use—from the most professional to the most affordable—and why protecting their hearing is something to shout about.