For years, I never wore hearing protection. Didn’t think I needed it. But when I switched to a modular helmet, the difference in wind noise was quite noticeable. It was annoying, but still, it didn’t convince me to buy earplugs. Besides, earplugs hurt my ears!
Well, after reading the hearing section in David Hough’s “Mastering the Ride” book, I was finally convinced to do something about it. In his book he tells the story of how he previously believed earplugs make it harder to hear important sounds—a common myth held by many riders—and that real motorcyclists didn’t need earplugs. That mindset changed for him after speaking to an audiologist who told him “I love tough guys like you. We’ll be measuring you for a hearing aid within ten years.” That got his attention. He did some additional research on the subject and now wears earplugs on every ride.
Specific details from his research can be found in his book. But check this out: At speeds above 40 mph, wind noise gets much louder than vehicle noise. At 80 mph, wind noise is louder than a power saw cutting through a board! Since wind noise is a constant, high-frequency sound, it’s the biggest threat to your hearing because you don’t notice the damage being done. However, damage to your hearing from wind noise is cumulative so it’s never too late to start protecting one’s ears.
Sure, helmets, windshields, and fairings may reduce some wind noise, but not enough to protect your ears from hearing damage. Even a disposable foam earplug can reduce high-frequency wind noise to safe levels regardless of your riding speed. All the while still allowing important sounds to be heard.
Earplugs for women
Since I started using earplugs while riding, I’ve experimented with a lot of different types, trying to find one that doesn’t hurt yet still provides enough hearing protection from the constant wind noise. For me, all the hard versions hurt like hell. Some just wouldn’t stay in while I put my helmet on, and it was frustrating to have to take the helmet off and on again just to get them in right and to stay. Besides, nobody wants to wait around for the ‘slow gear up’ person.
Finally, I settled on the world’s most-used foam earplugs, the Howard Leight orange standard size earplug. Squishy and moldable, they did work to fit and stay in my ears. But my ears still hurt after riding a couple hours. Since I usually ride 8-10 hours a day—with breaks—when traveling, I’d find myself wearing them for a stretch, not wearing them for a stretch, and then later trying again. But always with the same result: My ears just plain hurt at the end of the day.
So when I learned of the smaller size earplugs for women I was super excited about trying them. The Howard Leight Women Soft Foam Pink Earplugs (30 decibels noise reduction rating) are specially designed for smaller ear canals. I hadn’t realized that the size and bulkiness of the standard ones was my actual problem. But it was! I can actually wear these smaller ones for hours without pain.
They are soft and comfortable and don’t irritate my ears. That’s not to say I have no discomfort at all, but I can actually tolerate wearing earplugs for much longer than ever before. The size is right for me, and they provide great protection from wind noise. I can still hear all the sounds I need to hear, and even my music is much more comfortable to listen to without the added wind noise. The only drawback I’ve had wearing them has been with using the helmet intercom system while riding. I can still hear what the other rider is saying, but do find myself asking them to repeat what they said more than when not wearing the earplugs.
The one thing to know about using these earplugs is that improper fit will reduce its effect in attenuating noise, so be sure to insert them correctly. I always wet them a little, roll them into a smaller shape, and then insert into my ear so they go all the way in. Once in, they will expand and adjust to your ear for a custom fit.
Bottom line: if you are not using hearing protection you should! And if you’ve had any troubles getting ‘standard’ earplugs to fit, this may be the answer. It worked for me! You can get them on amazon. Like anything good for you, you have to get into the habit of using them every time you ride. Just think about this…When you are 80 years old and find that you don’t need a hearing aid you’ll be thankful you wore them.
Do you wear hearing protection every time you ride? What has worked for you? Please comment below.
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