CUSTOMIZED HEARING PROTECTION
Great earpro doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
Those of you who are regular readers of American Survival Guide might remember an article I wrote recently about “in-the-ear” electronic hearing protection products. These are like simple hearing aids that have special circuitry in them to block the loud report from a firearm. It’s pretty interesting and very effective technology, and I now have some in my range bag and hunting pack. While researching that article, I also found that there are similar products that are not electronic and therefore do not require batteries. The small hearing aid batteries needed for the electronic devices are, in my opinion, the big weakness in their design. While there are a number of makers who produce these mechanical in-the-ear devices, one really stands out in terms of effectiveness, value and versatility. That company is DECIBULLZ, and it offers a great line of products.
THE DECIBULLZ STORY
The DECIBULLZ story is one of frustration, perseverance, discovery and entrepreneurship. Kyle Kirkpatrick, the company’s founder and owner, was hard on his earphones. He used them while engaging in strenuous outdoor sports and hated that fact that they often didn’t stay in; and, if they did, they were uncomfortable. He is also a techno nerd. As a result, he wanted the best sound quality and clarity from his earphones. Fortunately for us, he couldn’t find anything that met all of his needs, so he decided to make them himself. Over the course of several years, he worked with audio engineers, materials experts and athletes to design, prototype and test hundreds of different models in his search for something that would stay in his ear, sound great, be comfortable and not cost an arm and a leg. The result, in
DECIBULLZ’S PRODUCTS OFFER GREAT FEATURES: THERE ARE NO BATTERIES TO CHANGE IN THE SOUND-PROTECTION PRODUCTS; AND, IF YOU WANT, YOU CAN KEEP THE EARPHONES CHARGING ALL THE TIME.
February 2012, was the first thermo-fit custom earphones—and they cost less than $30!
ONE EARPIECE, MANY INSERTS
The basis of DECIBULLZ’S innovative product line is its custom-moldable earpiece. Each product comes in a box that includes instructions, a set of Easy Shape (ES) thermoplastic earpiece molds, various sizes of foam ear tips that fit onto the side of the molded earpiece next to your head and an insert that fits into the side of the earpiece away from your head. By swapping out the inserts, you can use one set of custom-fit earpieces for a variety of purposes. Or, if you want, you can make a set of earpieces for each purpose. The inserts are color coded, so it is easy to tell the purpose each set is used for.
SHAPING THE THERMOPLASTIC MOLDS
To transform the thermoplastic molds that come with your DECIBULLZ product, all you need are— • The thermoplastic molds • Something to heat water in (such as a microwave-safe cup or a pot for use on a stove) • A metal spoon (don’t use a plastic or wooden
BY SWAPPING OUT THE INSERTS, YOU CAN USE ONE SET OF CUSTOM-FIT EARPIECES FOR A VARIETY OF PURPOSES. OR, IF YOU WANT, YOU CAN MAKE A SET OF EARPIECES FOR EACH PURPOSE.
spoon, because it might stick to the mold.) • The ear tips • The insert for your item Step 1: Heat a couple of cups of water in the microwave or on the stovetop. The water should be 150 to 170 degrees (F) before removing it from the heat. You should see bubbles forming in the bottom of the container you are heating the water in. Step 2: While the water is heating, put the ear tips on your molds. Step 3: Remove the water from the heat and drop one mold into the hot water. Let it sit for five minutes. Do not put in two molds at the same time, because if they come into contact with each other, they might stick together. Step 4: Remove the softened mold from the hot water with the metal spoon and let it sit for 30 seconds to cool down. If you put it into your ear immediately, it will be too hot, and you could wind up hurting yourself. Step 5: Place the insert for whatever item you have into the softened mold and press it
THE BASIS OF DECIBULLZ’S INNOVATIVE PRODUCT LINE IS ITS CUSTOM-MOLDABLE EARPIECE.
into your ear. Each mold has an “L” or “R” on it, so you know which ear it goes into. Make sure the ear tip is seated well in your ear canal. It should go in around the bend in the canal. Step 6: Gently press on the softened mold to cover the whole of the concha (the depression in your ear that leads into the entrance of the ear canal). The more of the concha you cover, the better the sound seal you will get and the better the product will work. Step 7: Leave the mold in your ear until it has cooled. This helps ensure it will keep its shape when you remove it. Step 8: To mold the other earpiece, simply repeat steps 1 through 7. In addition to being easy to use to make your earpieces, the thermoplastic molds are also re-moldable. You just pop them back into hot water and repeat the process. Even so, don’t leave them in a very hot environment, such as the inside of a car on a hot summer day, because they might soften up from the heat.
THE DECIBULLZ PRODUCT LINE
Over time, DECIBULLZ has updated and expanded its product line from the initial earphone product (which is no longer offered). The company’s current product line ranges in price from $25.99 to $119.99 and includes two hearing-protection products and two earphone products. DECIBULLZ has also been winning awards every year since beginning production in 2012. Custom Molded Earplugs. These basic earplugs are the simplest and lowest-tech item in the DECIBULLZ product line, but they are still a great improvement over simple foam earplugs. They have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 31. They provide superior sound isolation, will never fall out, are comfortable enough to wear all day and cost only $25.99. They are low profile and come in a variety of colors: blue, black, orange, pink and red. They are the perfect solution for loud environments such as gun ranges, machine shops, rock concerts or airplanes. You can even use them for swimming if you don’t want to get water in your ears. Custom Molded Percussive Shooting Filters. These percussive shooting filters are what initially brought DECIBULLZ to my attention. They do everything that the much more expensive electronic,
IN ADDITION TO BEING EASY TO USE TO MAKE YOUR EARPIECES, THE THERMOPLASTIC MOLDS ARE ALSO RE-MOLDABLE. YOU JUST POP THEM BACK INTO HOT WATER AND REPEAT THE PROCESS.
in-the-ear hearing protection devices do— with the exception of amplifying sound or having special filtering programs for different environments. But if you simply want to hear what is going on around you and also want to block out loud noises (gunshots, loud music, machinery, etc.), this is the product for you. The NRR rating for this model is 31. The innovative percussive impulse filters protect your ears from the peak sound pressure of loud noises and suppress them down to a safe level. It is basically a valve that opens and closes based on the type of sound you are hearing. Unlike the battery-powered products that range in price from $150 to $3,000 or more, the DECIBULLZ percussive filters cost only $74.99, and they are custom fitted to your ears. The only color it comes in is black; but if you have other DECIBULLZ products that have colored thermoplastic molds, you can use them with your percussive filters. So, if you want pink or orange instead of black, buy a set of the Custom Molded Earplugs at $25.99 as a backup and swap the colored molds for your black ones. I like them so much, especially the no-battery part, that they have earned a place in my bedroom gun safe for that 3:00 a.m. bump-in-the-night scenario for which I need to hear what is moving around downstairs but still want to protect my hearing if shots are fired. Custom Molded Contour ES In-ear Headphones. The Contour ES model is the next generation of the initial product put out by DECIBULLZ. In addition to the custom-fitting earpieces found on all DECIBULLZ products, its 9.2mm machined metal drivers provide cutting-edge sound quality from whatever device it is connected to via its auxiliary cord. The earphones, themselves, come with a three-button remote control that handles volume, playback and voice. The remote is fully compatible with IOS devices. (Volume functions might not work with some Android or Windows devices.) Like the percussive shooting filters, they only come in black (again, you can swap out the black for the colored earpieces from the other products). These headphones retail for $59.99.
Custom-fit Bluetooth Wireless Earphones. These Bluetooth-compatible, wireless earphones are the most sophisticated product in the DECIBULLZ line. Because they are wireless, all you need to do is pair them with whatever device you are using; you don’t have to worry about an auxiliary cord getting in the way or not being able to reach to the device. These earphones come with 9mm machined metal drivers, which provide excellent sound. In addition to the sound quality, they are also sweat- and water-resistant, so they can be used during strenuous activities or when you are out in foul weather. They come in black, blue, orange, pink and red and retail for $119.99.
If you spend a lot of time around shooting ranges or other sources of loud sound, you would be wellserved to get a pair of DECIBULLZ earplugs.
Each package of Custom-molded Earplugs includes two thermoplastic custom molds; triple flange ear tips in small, medium and large; one set of Max Protect Medium foam tips; and an earplug carrying pouch. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Below: Lanyards are also available for the earplugs and percussive filters in case you are prone to losing small things in your range bag or other kit. They fit into the earpiece, and the earplug or percussive filter fits into the lanyard connector. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Left: Whether you are hunting rabbits with a 20-gauge shotgun in the field or shooting a high-powered rifle at the range, percussive filters will let you hear what is going on around you while still stopping damaging sounds when they happen. (Photo: DECIBULLZ
Below: DECIBULLZ earplugs can help protect your hearing at the gun range and also when you are around loud noises (such as traveling in an airplane). (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Right: With DECIBULLZ, you can participate in any activity—confident that your earphones will not fall out—and you will get excellent sound quality. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Far right, middle: To mold your earpiece to your ear: Put it in hot water, let it soften, take it out of the water, and press it into your outer ear. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Far right, top: With the wireless version of the earphones, you’re free of the cable to your device, so you can put it anywhere nearby—in your pocket, a backpack or even next to you on the desk. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Near right: DECIBULLZ Custom Molded Earphones include two thermoplastic custom molds; earphones with a three-button remote and microphone; three sets of triple-flange silicone ear tips in small, medium and large sizes; and a protective storage case. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
The custom earpiece keeps out external sounds so you can enjoy the excellent sound quality from the machined metal audio drivers. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
DECIBULLZ Custom Molded Percussive Filters include two thermoplastic custom molds and percussive filters; three sets of triple-flange silicone ear tips in small, medium and large sizes; three sets of Max Isolation foam tips in small, medium and large sizes; and a protective, hard carrying case. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Below: The DECIBULLZ product comes in three parts: the thermoplastic mold that goes in the middle; the ear tip that makes a snug seal in your ear canal; and the insert for the type of product you bought (earplug, percussive filter, earphone or wireless earphone). (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Far right: The percussive filters are orange with a white DECIBULLZ logo to help you differentiate them from the plain earplugs. The other products all have a black insert with a white logo. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)
Near right: Each set of DECIBULLZ Custom Molded Wireless Earphones includes two thermoplastic custom molds; wireless earphones with a three-button remote and microphone; a micro USB charging cable; cable clip; and a protective case. (Photo: DECIBULLZ)