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post #1 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 09:11 AM Thread Starter
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Good read on ear protection

From an article posted on Bike Bandit:
There are a lot of opinions between riders about whether or not wearing hearing protection while riding is a good idea. We’ve noticed that, like so many other elements of this sport, the use of earplugs tends to be a controversial topic. Users swear by them, but many riders refuse, wanting to be as connected their bike and traffic conditions as possible for their safety. In many cases, however, riders on both sides of the debate are under-informed.

So to clear up some confusion, and make sure you have the right information to make your decision, we’ve put together a few myths and facts about using hearing protection while riding. Most importantly, we focus on the often unnoticed, silent killer of hearing while operating a motorcycle, and it’s not your exhaust or traffic; its ambient wind noise, which occurs at levels of well over 100dB at highway speeds! Find out how it can destroy your hearing, and what to do about it, by reading on.

Common Myths about Hearing Protection


Myth: You can’t hear traffic hazards, sirens, your bike, or other important sounds while wearing ear plugs.

Wearing ear plugs does block sound, but the way it actually affects your hearing is counter-intuitive.

The real killer of hearing, and what we are trying to prevent while riding, is wind noise; a continuous, high-frequency sound. What we want to hear are low-frequency sounds, things like cars around us, engine RPM, and approaching sirens.

Because wind noise beats on your ears non-stop, it creates a condition called temporary threshold shift, or temporary hearing loss from continuous over-exposure (we’ve all experienced this at a concert, races, operating machinery, etc.) In other words, you go partially deaf after an extended period of riding.

That temporary deafness is even more dangerous to your safety on the road than wearing ear plugs, because it affects all frequencies of hearing. Proper hearing protection prevents that from happening, and cuts high-frequency wind noise while still allowing important low-frequency sounds to be heard.


Myth: You only need to wear ear plugs if you have a loud bike.

Again, the biggest danger to your hearing is wind noise, and it piles up a lot faster than you think. Whether you ride a thunderous V-twin or a stock 250, the sound of your bike is miniscule when compared to the volume of wind noise, which is usually around the 100-110dB range at highway speeds. It is a constant, high-frequency sound; the type that is the biggest threat to your hearing, as you tend to not notice it beating your eardrums to death.


Myth: You don’t need to wear earplugs if you wear a full-face helmet.

Wearing a full-face helmet cuts exposure, but to degree that is not significant with respect to hearing damage. Different studies show a reduction in the range of 5-10dB when wearing a full-face, but at 100dB-plus levels found at normal highway speeds, this is still well within the territory of permanent hearing damage. Some helmets flow air so well, the wind noise can actually be almost equal to that of not using a helmet at all.


Myth: My windshield/fairings cut wind noise enough.

Much like the difference between full-face and half-helmets, there is a reduction in sound level, but not to a significant degree. Depending on the style of windshield or fairings, and the height of the rider and his body position, the resulting turbulence may mean there is no reduction in noise at all.


motorcycle ear plugs

Facts You Should Know about Hearing Protection

motorcycle ear plugs

Fact: Normal highway riding does irreparable, but imperceptible, hearing damage.

According to OSHA, up to 85-90dB of exposure for 8 hours a day is within hearing safety limits; however, when sound levels exceed 100dB, safe exposure time drops to only 2 hours, and at 115dB, is reduced to only 15 minutes!

What does that mean to us riders? 85-90dB is the level of noise you’re exposed to in normal to heavy traffic, at speeds of under 40mph. Think city driving; car horns, big rigs, sirens and loud vehicles can strain your ears, but not to the level of permanent hearing damage.

However, at speeds of 65mph or more, wind noise creeps up past the 90db mark, and increases dramatically with speed. In other words, more damage is being done to your ears cruising on an empty highway at the speed limit than in the middle of a crowded city!


Fact: Some riders can hear better when wearing hearing protection.

This is completely counter-intuitive, but true. Recalling the TTS, or the temporary reduction in hearing that occurs from sustained exposure, we know that a rider that does not wear ear plugs will have worse hearing while on the road (whether he realizes it or not.)

On the other hand, by reducing that high-frequency wind noise, ear plug wearers are preventing TTS and retaining full hearing ability, still being able to clearly hear low-frequency sounds like approaching cars, sirens, and their engines. As a result, many users actually report feeling more in tune with the road, and especially their bikes, when wearing proper ear plugs, because they are less fatigued or distracted by the roaring wind noise that they probably didn’t even notice before.

The important factor is choosing ear plugs that attenuate enough to take the edge off of high frequency wind noise, while still allowing important sounds to be heard. This is accomplished at 15-30db attenuation, the range most “foamie” style earplugs fall into.


Fact: Wearing hearing protection makes you less tired after a ride.

Many ear plug wearers report lower fatigue after riding versus when riding without them. This is due to the reduction in “noise fatigue," a condition of exhaustion and even pain that can result from sustained exposure to high levels of noise (a commonly known condition in the aviation industry, and other industries where loud noise is constant.) In other words, you may literally feel more energetic during and after a ride with ear plugs in, which is especially important if you’re a motorcycle commuter. It can’t hurt your riding ability either.
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post #2 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 09:12 AM Thread Starter
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post #3 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 09:31 AM
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Thanks for this valuable information. I never wear ear protection on the bike, but now I'm convinced to at least try ear plugs when the bike comes out of hibernation next spring. By the way, what brand/type is the most recommended?
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post #4 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 09:48 AM
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Here is a good place to start to look. The "assortment" pack allows you to try several different types out to see what suits you the best.

Ear Plugs, Earphones, Earmuffs, White Noise Machines at Ear Plug Superstore!


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post #5 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 10:09 AM
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I always wear earplugs.. the few times where I forget to put them in it becomes noticeable just how LOUD driving a bike is. With plugs, I can hear the important noises (car, trucks, etc) extremely well.

On the highway I listen to music. Without plugs I would have to crank it as loud as possible and I would barely hear it. With the plugs in I have the volumn at about 60% and it's nice and clear.

Earplugs are worth it.

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post #6 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 10:09 AM
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There are so many foam style plugs available plus the custom fitted that what works for you may be a difficult decision. I used the foam plus we had at work...by the handful. Some use a plug until it's too nasty to stick in your ears. Some use once and toss. I had to cut down the ones I used cus I have small ear canals.
I finally got a set of fitted silicone plugs at a rally...about $60 dollars. Fit well and were really quiet. Especially nice for night use when camping against snore noise from the guy in the next tent.
This season I got another custom fitted set that are different than the first in that the plug doesn't go into the canal as far. They work well also but tend to fall out as I remove my helmet. The second set also has a larger outer surface area so it would not be as comfortable for use when sleeping.
How plugs fit is dependent on you ear shape and sensitivity to having a plug in your ear for extended periods. Some foam plugs gave me a lot of discomfort, others were fine.
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post #7 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 10:28 AM
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The assortment idea is a good one. As notacop says, ear fit varies a lot, more than seats. After trying 6-8 different types, I settled on the Champion Gel Plugs.

Amazon.com: Champion Gel Corded Ear Plugs with Case: Sports & Outdoors

They seemed to be both the most effective and most comfortable for me. They don't wiggle out like many foam plugs and are at least somewhat washable. Even comes with a little pocket case.
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post #8 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 10:33 AM
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I use ear buds which block out the sound and provide audio from my phone. But I am going to try plugs to see if they block out more as I want to make sure my ears are protected


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post #9 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 11:20 AM
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If you're in a state than bans earplugs, send this to your lawmakers. State-by-state motorcycle laws

Pat- 2007 DL650A was ridden to all 48 contiguous states. I didn't quite make it to 17,000 miles on the 2012 DL650A.
Nicknames I use to lessen typing, Vee = 2002-2012 DL1000s. Vee2=2014-2016 DL1000s. Wee = 2004-2011 DL650s. Glee = 2012-2016 DL650s
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post #10 of 60 Old 11-20-2013, 11:46 AM
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There is no doubt wind noise can damage your hearing. I have some tinnitus from not having my plugs installed properly. This is only from a couple of rides.

06 V-Strom DL650

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