With more reports that unprecedented numbers of people are losing their hearing from far sources far more innocuous (read “ipods”) than building demolitions, fire alarms or rock concerts, it is important that we protect themselves in situations where we know there will be prolonged exposure to high levels of sound.

According the EPA, the average rock concert produces around 112dB of sound; enough to damage your hearing in a matter of minutes.

Ever since my rave-going days, I’ve known that I need to wear earplugs in order to avoid a muffled ringing skull at noon the next day. For dancing and bone crushing beats, cheap heavy foam ear plugs did the trick. Of course, the cheap ones work less well when you actually want to hear the music and vocals without the muffed mess. Enter the Etymonic ER-20 High Fidelity Earplug.

Using the same technology found in Etymonic’s $200 custom Musicians Earplugs, the ER-20s are a steal at only $12 from the company website. Unlike foam earplugs that block all frequencies almost equally, the ER-20s are specially designed to to truncate the highs and lows while leaving much of the music and vocals quieter but decidedly clear.

As a regular concert goer as well as music photographer, I’ve been very impressed with the ER-20’s ability to retain a lot musical detail while offering a good amount of protection. They are about as comfortable to wear as a pair of in-ear headphones and can be worn comfortably for hours.

The ER-20s are available in two sizes and a variety of colors. Each pair comes with a flexible plastic case; an optional neck strap is also available.