Bartlett custom earplug business battles hearing loss

Entrepreneur Bobbi Hedegard and her colorful custom earplugs are helping limit hearing loss for a wide range of recreational and professional users.

Hedegard, a Bartlett resident, took the leap last year and started her own business, Performance Ear Pro. She operates her new venture from a carved-out space at the Top Gun Memphis range at 2770 Whitten Road near the Bartlett-Memphis line.

Her company makes earplugs molded specifically to each buyer for uses such as shooting and water sports, aviation and loud industrial jobs or law enforcement.

To make the earplugs, silicone putty is injected into the ear so that it perfectly forms to each person.

“Not just the outer ear, but most importantly, the inner ear. That’s where a lot of the noise reduction is going to happen,” Hedegard said. “It’s not going to fall out or cause ear fatigue, so it can be worn for a long period of time.”

Bobbi Hedegard owns Performance Ear Pro, in the Top Gun Memphis range at 2770 Whitten Road. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Buyers have two options: an “on-the-go” set where Hedegard simply does some finish work on the mold (for people who need it right away) or a lab-made “chameleon ear” where an impression is scanned and made on a 3D printer. The sets come in a variety of colors that can be mixed, with the “chameleon ear” having more options than the “on-the-go” sets.

According to, the base price for custom ear plugs is $75.

Hedegard formalized the business about a year ago and became very active in the fall. But she has been making earplugs for nearly a decade.

Bobbi Hedegard says her earplugs can be used for professional reasons, such as law enforcement or industrial jobs, or for leisure, like water sports or for those who “just want to escape noise in general.” (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

After serving in the Navy for 11 years, she moved to San Antonio in 2008, worked as a government contractor and became heavily involved with competitive shooting sports.

She saw people wearing bulky, earmuff-style headsets and wanted something lighter and more accommodating to the ear.

She became a rep for E.A.R. Inc.’s custom earplugs in 2013. By 2016, she was looking for a career change, moved to Bartlett and became a registered nurse.

“After going through the pandemic, I decided I needed a break from that. And that’s why I decided to do this full time,” said Hedegard, who still works a couple of days each week at Zenith Health in East Memphis.

Over the years, she maintained a relationship with E.A.R. Inc. and still uses their silicone, Bluetooth lanyards and pouches.

In forming her new business, Hedegard wanted to expand outside of only recreational sports, so she became a certified hearing conservationist. She said there are companies that have an OSHA requirement for earplugs, “but oftentimes they provide the cheapest thing.”

“So employees get little foam earplugs that (aren’t) comfortable. They don’t fit, and they may go through several sets a day,” Hedegard said.

Hedegard plans to expand the business by meeting with companies whose employees might benefit from her product as well as attending trade shows for particular groups or industries where hearing loss is an issue.

Many occupations have sustained noise throughout the day, including musicians and sound engineers, construction workers, public safety and industrial employees.

“If you worked in an environment like that every day, over time you would have hearing loss,” Hedegard said.

“Sometimes we just want to escape noise in general and just meditate and relax at home,” she said.

Hedegard says it has been challenging learning all the ins and outs of running her own business.

Ranae Knapp, who competes with Hedegard in a ladies league called A Girl and a Gun at the TWRA range in Bartlett, has used her purple custom earplugs for four years. Wearing eye and earmuff-style protection aggravated her migraine headaches.

“All that pressure on the side of my head, and I would have a horrible headache by the time I got done shooting,” she said.

Bobbi Hedegard’s earplugs can be made two different ways. There’s a faster “on-the-go” set or a lab-made “chameleon ear” where a 3D printer is used. (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

In addition to using them on the range, Knapp uses them for trap competitions involving shotguns, allowing her to still hear athletes and coaches.

Her son, J.R., who works in a loud machine shop, also uses the earplugs.

Two months ago, A.J. Fruit decided to try the earplugs for multiple reasons, including job, work at home and recreational shooting activities. He keeps his translucent blue and yellow swirled earplugs in a pouch on his keychain so they are always with him.

“Since I already have a little bit of hearing damage, I really don’t want any more,” Fruit said. “I also (wear) them whenever I’m working with a chainsaw or when I’m working with small engines. It keeps the buzzing out.”

Michael Waddell

Michael Waddell is a native Memphian with more than 20 years of professional writing and editorial experience, working most recently with The Daily News and High Ground News.

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