Jack Black at a MusiCares hearing screening in Denver
Photo: Courtesy of ACS Custom USA
ACS Custom USA: MusiCares Partner Spotlight
As the popular saying goes, "Seeing is believing." But with music, "Hearing is believing" is more appropriate.
Here's something else that is believable: Approximately 20 percent of Americans — somewhere in the neighborhood of 48 million people — experience some degree of hearing loss.
This jarring statistic is one of the main reasons why MusiCares makes it a part of their year-round mission to promote hearing health in the music community.
To bolster this effort, the foundation has established a fruitful partnership with ACS Custom USA. Established in 1994, ACS Custom is "dedicated to hearing conservation and the manufacturing of custom-fit hearing protection and in-ear monitors."
"MusiCares has an outstanding reputation within the music industry," says Adam Rhodes, director of ACS Custom USA. "Partnering with such a respected organization has been an absolute honor."
ACS Custom offers some of the finest hearing products for musicians and listeners alike.
Their PRO Series line of custom hearing protection offers seven interchangeable filter options — ranging from 10 to 27dB — as well as an Impulse Filter for shooting. "These innovations in hearing protection allow for our customers to have some of the most versatile earplugs in the world," says Rhodes.
In early 2017 they introduced Arena earplugs, which are low-cost, high-fidelity earplugs that allow the user to enjoy a concert performance without sacrificing sound quality. Where conventional earplugs dull sounds, the Arena earplugs protect by attenuating frequencies evenly, for less than the price of a drink at the show.
The company also has a new range of sound-isolating universal earphones that deliver the same responses as their custom-fit series in-ear-monitors — all designed to allow for safe listening levels while keeping sound quality intact.
In tandem with MusiCares, ACS has hosted custom fittings for earplugs and monitors at various music festivals, including Stagecoach, Coachella, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, South by Southwest, and EDC Las Vegas. Nearly 100 of these hearing clinics are being offered around the country this year.
MusiCares covers the expense of the impressions and earplugs, therefore the service is free to participants. Though the service only takes a few minutes participants receive a thorough check of their auditory system.
"At the time of impression taking, we sit the client down to fill out some paperwork and discuss their role in the music industry to see what filter type would be best for their needs," says Rhodes. "We then use an otoscope to inspect their ear canals for blockages and to make sure the eardrum is healthy. After this, we use a penlight to insert foam dams just past the second bend of their ear canals to ensure the silicone material doesn't go too far.
"We then shoot a two-part silicone into the inner and outer ear, wait for it to harden, and then remove it. This is a simple process, which takes about 10 minutes."
Attendees at a MusiCares hearing screening in Houston
From using cheap over-the-counter earplugs to makeshift protection like cotton balls, there are many misconceptions about the steps people can take to protect their hearing. People should be aware that these misunderstandings can quickly lead to a problem.
"The biggest misconception [about hearing protection] is that warning signs like ringing in the ears or dulled hearing after loud sound exposure isn't a problem because it goes away the next day," says Andy Shiach, founder and managing director of ACS Custom UK. "It takes several years for the effects of noise exposure to expose themselves by which time it's too late to fix them."
The good news is that there are a variety of custom hearing protection options available these days. And in partnering with MusiCares to promote hearing health, ACS Custom USA hopes that more people will learn why hearing protection is a sound investment.
"Seeing firsthand what MusiCares provides to industry professionals in terms of services and clinics has been humbling, to say the least," says Rhodes. "We hope our efforts in hearing conservation help MusiCares spread awareness about such an important issue affecting the professionals in this field."