Ear Protection -- Music stars from Sheryl Crow to the Backstreet boys are sporting designer hearing buffers

By Laura Morgan
Updated July 14, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

There is nothing trendy about tinnitus. Earplugs, on the other hand, have become must-haves for the pop-star set. Where do rock gods in need of buzz-worthy aural accoutrements head? To the Philadelphia-based Future Sonics, Inc., which has been outfitting chart-toppers — including the Backstreet Boys, Sheryl Crow, Toni Braxton, and Ricky Martin — with custom-made Ear Monitor molds since 1990. Not only do the decibel-damning devices ward off hearing loss, they’re also virtually invisible. The plugs — which require an audiologist’s fitting — start at $798 and come in beige, brown, or personalized skin tones. ”By allowing performers to hear themselves, the devices prevent auditory and vocal fatigue,” says Monitor inventor Marty Garcia, who prefers the term ”earphones.” Of course, there are a few stars who aim to be fashionably loud. Duran Duran’s Simon LeBon coats his plugs with diamante glitter. He showed them off to Katie Couric on a recent Today show.