The Best Motorcycle Earplugs: Four Lies Exposed!

Claiming that something is the best, such as “the best motorcycle earplugs”, is quite a bold statement. In this blog, four lies about the so-called best motorcycle earplugs in the market will be revealed. You will come to understand that many companies out there make claims about their products that may be too good to be true.

Riding into the wind

As we all know, motorcycles are a mode of transport and have long been regarded as noisy. Previous studies have shown that motorcycling at 60 km/h produces 90 dB(A) excessive wind noise. Alarmingly, this only increases linearly, when plotted against the log of speed, to be as high as 110 dB(A) at 160 km/h. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workers are only allowed to be exposed to a maximum of 90 dB(A) for eight hours. Similarly, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends only eight hours of exposure to sound levels reaching a maximum of 85 dB(A) and just 15 minutes or less exposure to sounds reaching 100 dB(A).

Having said this, noise from motorcycling is clearly excessive. Therefore, it is highly recommended to wear the best hearing protection you can get. Unfortunately, getting what is right for you can be quite tricky. You may find yourself typing keywords such as “top ten best earplugs” or “best earplugs for motorcycling”.  Search results may then show popular websites run by e-commerce giants. This may not be the most reliable way to do research. Sadly, more often than not, some e-commerce giants are not exactly experts when it comes to hearing protection. There is a lot of misrepresentation in numerous products sold and some sellers go as far as hiring people to put up fake reviews.

Whether you are an amateur or a professional motorcyclist, you should be equipped with the best protection possible. You can certainly purchase the next set of earplugs that you see in order to have a quick fix but that can only get you so far. However, if you plan on riding motorcycles frequently and for longer periods of time, it may be wiser to invest on a couple of good ones. After all, what is going to suffer if not properly given attention to is your hearing – one of the major senses.

As far as hearing protection for motorcycling is concerned, there are numerous claims about different products in the market. While some of them are true, some are a bit far-fetched.

Here are the FOUR LIES about the best generic motorcycle earplugs:

1. Generic sets fit great.

Generic sets are intended for the general public; meaning, there is only one size for all. While these may work as a temporary fix for many people and certain situations, it definitely is not the solution for everyone. Believe it or not, there are anatomical differences in each individual’s ear canal. Hence, not only attenuation but also fit and comfort should be considered in choosing earplugs.

What’s more is that many of the big sellers in the market today may not actually even be motorcycle riders themselves. If you are one, you would know that there is a different kind of environment out there on the road. You would also know how difficult it is to keep earplugs in place under a helmet.

Consider wearing foam earplugs before riding into the wind. Putting these on may be quite a struggle as you roll them in you ear and wait for them to expand. As you finish both ears, you notice that they are rather uneven so you redo one or both of them. The next hurdle is the helmet. You carefully slip it on, trying not to dislodge any of the earplugs. As simple as this is, this may actually take a few minutes to do, even longer if you are using a tight helmet which is hard to get on and off easily.

Indeed, when you stop by at an area, you may find yourself repeating the same procedure all over again as you remove your helmet and earplugs and then try to put them all back on. Moreover, when you are on the road, doing different kinds of movements with your vehicle, your earplugs may get dislodged and would obviously be dangerous to adjust while driving. Now, that’s a lot of of work for something that supposedly fits the majority.

2. Generic sets deliver their promised protection.

Generic sets typically have a noise reduction rating (NRR) of 22-32 dB(A). However, in reality, these may actually give a lower value since proper placement in the ears influences noise reduction. During motorcycling, movements are constantly done such that it is rather inevitable for generic sets to become dislodged eventually. If the earplugs are not properly worn, then high levels of sound may still enter the ear canal. Therefore, the actual protection is insufficient.

You may feel better because you think that you have done enough by just buying the next earplugs you laid your eyes on. However, you may want to rethink your choices and spend on a more reliable pair.

3. Generic motorcycle earplugs are high fidelity.

What is high fidelity? According to Cambridge Dictionary, it is the production of sound quality by electrical equipment that is so high quality that it matches the original sound.

How exactly are noise from the wind, motor and road created in high fidelity? Well, they simply are not. The ones that claim to be high fidelity actually use a flat attenuation filter that were most likely tested in a laboratory after insertion in a sound booth to determine the NRR. In reality, nothing was ever tested in a motorcycle helmet in wind noise with the helmet moving up and down, shifting around and sliding out. The worst filter offenders are just little orifices that allow sound to enter the earplugs. Having said this, these so-called high fidelity earplugs may not deliver its promised sound quality in a real-life setting.

4. Generic earplugs are hygienic.

Generic earplugs are marketed to be either reusable or disposable. The reusable ones are usually made of silicone while the disposable ones are made of foam. The disposable ones are really meant to be used only once. However, some people use these until they are bent out of shape. When overused, these can be a breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to ear infections. On the other hand, reusable earplugs have to be cleaned after each use.

Consider yourself driving a motorcycle under the scorching sun then stopping by at a nearby gas station. You have just been sweating in your gloves and now you are about to reach into your ears to remove your earplugs. You notice that your earplugs are drenched in sweat with some earwax stuck onto them. However, the problem is that you forgot to bring extra ones to replace them.

This is what is tedious about generic earplugs. You have to constantly replace them or wash them to be hygienic. In addition, because generic earplugs have to be replaced often, then it may be costly in the long run.

So, how are generic sets the best earplugs?

With the previously mentioned reasons, they probably are not as excellent as they claim to be. It would probably be best to do some proper research before purchasing impulsively. Always remember that your hearing, one of the major senses is at stake. Choose wisely.

Learn about choosing the right hearing protection.

References:

  1. McCombe A. W. (2003). Hearing loss in motorcyclists: occupational and medicolegal aspects. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine96(1), 7–9. doi:10.1258/jrsm.96.1.7
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (n.d.). How loud is too loud? Retrieved November 15, 2019, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/loud.html.
  3. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Occupational Noise Exposure, Occupational Noise Exposure1–106 (1998). Cincinnati, OH: Department of Health and Human Services.
  4. Samelli, A. G., Gomes, R. F., Chammas, T. V., Silva, B. G., Moreira, R. R., & Fiorini, A. C. (2018). The study of attenuation levels and the comfort of earplugs. Noise & health20(94), 112–119. doi:10.4103/nah.NAH_50_17
  5. Cambridge University Press. (n.d.). HIGH FIDELITY: meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved November 19, 2019, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/high-fidelity.