OK, sorry I've been kinda lazy on the posting, but I have to drop kind of a heavy post here for a second. I have a friend who went to an audiologist recently and found out that he is pretty much deaf in one ear and is very close in the other. He's a musician and has years of going to loud shows (metal, hardcore, electronic, industrial, etc.) It also doesn't help that he works in a very noisy environment, though he told me he always wears earplugs at work.
And that's the key. It's easy to not think about hearing protection when you go out, but too many clubs run the sound too damn loud. If you are involved in a music scene for any length of time and you're going to shows often without earplugs, you're going to feel the effects sooner or later.
I know that it took me a long time before I was wearing earplugs with any regularity. Basically, by the time I really got serious about it, I'd already developed a high pitch ring in both ears. I've had my hearing checked and apparently I haven't suffered any loss, but I can't help but wonder if I'd started wearing earplugs sooner if I'd have this ringing.
So, what I'm saying is, invest in some earplugs. You don't have to get custom ones, though if you are a musician or someone who goes to a lot of shows, I think it's the smartest money you can spend. The foam stoppers are ok, but even the slightly more expensive ones with the filters that you can get at music stores are better. Anything is better than nothing.
Also, watch the volume on the ear buds. I know sometimes when I'm listening to the iPod I catch myself turning it up too loud. Now I start at a volume that seems a little too low and let my ears get used to it rather than turning it up.
Well, that's my public service message for the month. Protect your hearing. Seriously though, it's easy to do and so often overlooked. And the alternative is pretty depressing.