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Loop Earplugs Helped Me Survive Three Hardcore Shows and a Metal Festival

Not only do they look like cool Klingon jewelry, but Loop's earplugs reduce volume instead of rendering your surroundings a muffled mess.
Hilary Pollack
Los Angeles, US
loop noise reduction earplugs noise canceling
Composite by VICE Staff

During the darkest emotional crypts of prime quarantine time in 2020, I'd often lay vegetal on my sofa and fantasize about the most crowded, depraved social environments I couldn't wait to return to: the din of a full restaurant bar, with people's arms reaching past your elbows to tip their bartenders; the swiveling leather chairs of slot machines on casino floors in Vegas, martini in hand; the sardine-packed crowds of club shows at my favorite venues. I may have missed live music most of all; shows have always been like church to me, my second home, and it felt like I would never witness a stage-dive again. But finally, that day came—and I realized I needed earplugs to survive it. 

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For years and years, I went to several shows a month (at times, several a week) and never wore earplugs because I didn't want to risk diluting my aural experience. Those little foam earplugs they sell at the bar for a dollar just make you feel like you're underwater, and as a total nut who needs to hear every single guitar tone and pedal effect with maximum clarity, I was just not a fan. I've also tried some other types of earplugs, like the ones with little concentric rings that feel like bees are forming a hive in your ear canal when you insert them. Didn't love those either. So when I was sent some Loop earplugs to try out, I kept my expectations relatively low. But after taking them to three hardcore shows, a Kool & the Gang fireworks extravaganza, a goth show, and an entire metal festival, I’m a huge fan. 


$29.95 at Amazon

$29.95 at Amazon

I was able to get vaccinated last March, but several more months passed before I finally made it in front of a stage. My first post-vax show ended up being a hardcore show in San Jose, California—Zulu, Spy, and Scalpin early July, and it was wild. (Someone recorded pretty much the whole thing and helpfully posted it on YouTube here, if you're curious.) Although I was excited to be back in the game, I had to adjust not just mentally, but physically, to the realities of being at a packed show again. Being around hundreds of people was definitely a big-time Criss Angel-level mindfreak not only because I had to overcome COVID anxiety after months of conditioning that humans = vectors of death (not not true, but being vaxxed helps a lot!), but I also had forgotten how shows are SO LOUD?!?!?!?!?! Yes, I am getting old, thank you, but jumpin' Jehoshaphat, it feels like movies and concerts are now fully intended to give you irreparable hearing damage. Like, if your ears aren't ringing like medieval church bells for three weeks after your night out, did you really go to see a Marvel movie? (I've actually never seen any of the Marvel movies, so that rhetorical choice is speculative.)

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Over the years, I developed intermittent tinnitus—a condition which has literally driven people to suicide, since the flare-ups can be so disruptive—so I take protecting my hearing way more seriously these days. It just isn't worth it to let my poor eardrums go bareback when I can feel that a show is pummeling them. At the San Jose gig, I popped in the Loops—which come in a tiny case that you can put on your keychain, love that—and found that it was like turning down the dial on a radio: Everything's still there, but just softer. 

Loop's whole deal is that they promise to reduce noise without qualitatively ruining it. They're designed specifically for enjoying music, using an acoustic channel with a mesh filter that's meant to function the same way your ear canal does and reduces volume by 18 to 27 decibels—an amount significant enough to protect your hearing, but that still allows you to hear your friend leaning over and asking if you'd like another tequila soda. (Many of Loop’s positive reviews come from those with autism, noise sensitivity, and sensory disorders, who applaud the plugs’ ability to reduce overstimulation while still allowing the wearer to be functional at work or in social situations.) They're also supposed to be so comfortable you can sleep in them (the brand makes a line specifically designed for snoozing, with additional volume reduction), and each set comes with three different sizes of silicone tips, since not all ears are shaped the same. 

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$19.95 at Amazon

$19.95 at Amazon

Another bonus of Loop earplugs is their aesthetic; they don't stick out of your ear at all, and kind of look like Klingon jewelry, with their eponymous circular loop that enables you to pull them out easily, but also holds them snug between your antitragus and concha. (Yes, I looked up a diagram of an ear whilst writing this.) They're definitely a little sexier than bright orange pieces of foam sticking out of your head, and come in a bunch of colors including black, white, red, and even gold. 


$34.95 at Amazon

$34.95 at Amazon

But best of all, they work. Since last July, my Loops have also joined me to see Turnstile (twice, in support of their phenomenal new album Glow On that I, like everyone else, am obsessed with), Second Skin, an entire weekend of metal at Psycho Las Vegas, and at least a half dozen other shows, and my tinnitus has been totally kept at bay.  

My ears: not ringing. My vaccine: still seems to be working like a charm. My Loop case: never leaving my keychain. 

Loop’s noise reduction earplugs are available for $29.95 on Amazon. 


The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.