Motorcycle earplugs: Why you should wear them and how to choose them
While hearing damage is often associated with loud music, it's definitely not the only situation where your hearing can be damaged. Maybe you've experienced that ringing sound in your ears after going for a ride, yourself? That ringing, also known as tinnitus, is a common form of hearing damage. The best way to prevent it? Wear earplugs when you're riding your motorcycle!
Need for speed = need for earplugs
Motor engines can create a lot of noise, but it's mostly the wind you're experiencing inside your helmet that can damage your hearing. Surprising right?
Even at lower speed, the wind that's rushing through your helmet is enough to cause hearing damage. Depending on how fast you're going, sound levels go up and the time your ears are able to endure sound (without protection) shrinks.
The table below shows the average decibel level associated with speed and the amount of time your ears can endure it before being damaged. Volume is expressed in decibels (dB). Just to give you an idea: a normal conversation is around 60dB. Hearing damage can occur at or above 85dB.
|Speed||Volume (in dB)||Maximum amount of exposure (in minutes)|
|100 km/hour||94 dB||15 minutes|
|120 km/hour||98 dB||7 minutes|
|140 km/hour||102 dB||3 minutes|
|160 km/hour||105 dB||1.5 minutes|
Just one motor ride can be enough for a lifetime of hearing issues. Earplugs are the best way to prevent this and even more, they'll make it safer to ride your motorcycle. That's because, when you're exposed to loud noise, you get tired. As a result, your concentration drops and you're less able to focus on traffic. Which can be quite dangerous.
What makes the best earplug for motorcycling?
1. Enough Protection
I think we've already established this by now, but in order to protect your hearing while on a motorcycle, you need an earplug that offers the right amount of sound reduction. One that reduces enough to protect your hearing, but not too much. You still need to be able to hear traffic (like sirens), navigation or have a conversation with others through your intercom.
So, what's the right amount? Let's have a look back at the overview from before. Hearing damage occurs at or above a sound level of 85 decibels. A level you easily cross, if your motorcycle is going faster than 90 km/hour. Let's assume that (when you follow traffic regulations) there aren't that many situations where you're going more than 160 km/hour. In that latter case, sound peaks at 105dB. In order to bring that back to a safe level, you'll need to reduce the sound by about 20 decibels. Or in other words; you need an earplug with a sound reduction of about 20 decibels for on your motorcycle.
A sound reduction of 18dB is the right balance between protection and experience. It will protect your hearing without cutting you off completely. Which is not just safer (in traffic) but also more fun if you like the sound of your motor engine or love motorcycling in a group.
2. Comfort during the entire ride
Safety first. That includes wearing a helmet while motorcycling - and wearing earplugs. Whether you're riding your motor to work every day or love to go for long rides on weekends, both your helmet and earplugs should be comfortable. And just like with helmets, some earplugs are more comfortable than others. But good motorcycling earplugs do have a few things in common:
- Comfortable for multiple hours
- Doesn't stick out (so it won't interfere with your helmet)
- Doesn't irritate your skin
- Stays put the entire ride
If you're wearing a helmet one of the most - if not the most - important thing you should check is the shape of an earplug and how it sits in your ear. Many earplugs (for example foam and universal earplugs) stick out of your ear. This can interfere with your helmet and cause irritation. Plus, it might move the earplug out of place. A solution to this issue is an earplug that doesn't stick out, like Loop earplugs. Its round shape sits in your ear and the shape helps the earplug to stay in place.
A second thing to evaluate is the ear tip. This is the part of the earplug that sits directly in your ear canal. Each ear is unique, so there's not one ear tip (or earplug) that fits everyone. More and more earplug brands include multiple ear tips in their packages. These vary in sizes and (sometimes) in materials. This way you can select your best fit at home and there is no need to worry about whether the earplug will fit your ears.
At Loop, we offer different pairs of ear tips in two different materials (foam and silicone) and four different sizes (extra small, small, medium and large).
3. Hear what's happening around you
When you're out on your motorcycle, your earplugs should protect you from the wind rushing under your helmet. But they should also protect you from traffic (or other possible danger) surrounding you. And that's something they don't do by lowering the volume but by keeping the sound that does come in clear. This way you won't be completely shut off from what's happening around you. Another benefit of hearing things clearly is to better understand navigation and talk with fellow motorcyclists on an intercom.
But what determines an earplug's sound quality?
In daily life, your ear canal acts as a natural resonator. It makes sure sound sounds as it was intended to sound. But when putting in earplugs, you lose that function. Most earplugs don't compensate for this loss of function as they block your ear completely. The result? An uneven and muffled sound experience. In order to compensate for this loss of function and to offer a great sound experience, an earplug must have a resonance chamber.
A resonance chamber replaces the natural resonance your ears usually make. In earplug terms, this translates itself to an equal attenuation over the entire hearing spectrum. In other words: you'll hear sound as it was intended to sound - just less loud. This resonance chamber can take many forms. At Loop, we went for an innovative approach and designed a hollow acoustic channel that has the same length as your ear canal and mimics its function. With a natural sound experience as a result.
Earplugs that meet the three requirements above are not only interesting if you're a motorcyclist. They also come in handy for your backseat passengers or if you love to ride a convertible or even practice a sport that requires a helmet, like skydiving for example. And yes, that last one is true! One of our customers is an indoor skydiving instructor and he uses them at work.