About Motorcycle Ear Plugs

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We’re not going to tell you that you should wear hearing protection when riding your motorcycle.  If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably thought about it or better yet, already use some type of ear plug.  In this Chance Moto write up, we’ll look at 4 options designed to protect your hearing while riding.

Option #1: Disposable Foam Ear PlugIMG_4150

As with all things in motorcycling, hearing protection is available to suit any budget.   At the least expensive end of the spectrum sits the humble foam plug.   Hey -they’re good enough for most riders in the Moto GP paddock, so they must be fine for us mere mortals, right?

Pros:

  • Least expensive option at about $1 per pair (can be bought in bulk for even less)
  • Disposable (so you won’t be too upset if you misplace a set)
  • Can be purchased virtually anywhere, ranging from your local hardware store to eBay, Amazon, etc.
  • Also available in other materials such as silicone at a slight $ premium

Cons:

  • Some riders may not be able to achieve a comfortable fit
  • Require some fanaggling (squishing, compressing…) in order to get into position
  • Attenuate all sound frequencies equally -which means you may or may not be able to use them with a helmet communicator

Option #2: Noise Isolating Stereo Ear Buds

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If you like listening to music while you ride, investing in a set of noise-isolating ear buds (such as “The S Plug” from PlugUp.com) may be your best option. You may already use stereo earbuds while you ride and although they’re likely better than not wearing any protection, chances are they either a) let a lot of external noise in, or b) require you to turn up your music up quite loud.  In either case, you can still damage your hearing which is the case for investing in a set of true noise isolating ear buds.

Pros:

  • Can listen to music while riding, while still protecting your ears
  • May be compatible with certain helmet communicators
  • Most have silicone tips which can be comfortable for extended listening/riding sessions
  • Can be used to listen to music, even when not on the bike

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive (>$150/pair)
  • Finding the right fit may require trying various tips
  • Some riders may never find a fit they consider comfortable enough for longer rides

Option #3: Custom Solid Ear PlugsIMG_5303

If you’ve ever tried foam or silicone ear plugs and couldn’t achieve a comfortable fit, the custom ear plug option may be right for you.  Available at some bike shows and most audiologists, these plugs are formed to your inner-ear and provide a superior level of fit to most off-the-shelf plugs.

The procedure involves inserting a “block” into the ear canal, then injecting an expanding compound into the ear canal.  The resulting shape is then carefully removed from your ear and worked into a custom plug.ctm-impressions

Pros:

  • Can be relatively inexpensive (bigearinc.com offer them for $60 at most bike shows)
  • Great option for those who cannot find comfort with off-the-shelf plugs
  • Can also be used for sleeping, air travel, etc

Cons:

  • May be difficult to locate an accredited professional (depending on your location)
  • Custom moulding process isn’t painful but some may find it uncomfortable
  • Attenuate all sound frequencies equally -which means you may or may not be able to use them with a helmet communicator

Option #4: Custom Filtered Ear PlugsIMG_3477

If you are serious about your riding and have the budget for them, custom filtered plugs offer the greatest comfort, while allowing you to hear voice or music.  Similar to the custom solid plugs, these require an audiologist to take an imprint of your inner-ear, then create a mould to produce a custom, semi-hard plug. The plug then receives a custom formed canal and frequency filter to allow specific sounds (usually speech or music) to be transmitted through to your ear, while still blocking harmful sound waves from damaging your ear.

Pros:

  • Sound isolation with the added benefit of being able to hear speech or music
  • Comfortable, custom fit
  • Washable/reusable and should last several years
  • Cost may be covered by certain health benefit plans

Cons:

  • Most expensive option (>$300/pair)
  • Requires visit to an audiologist
  • May have to wait several weeks prior to receiving finished product

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