Since hearing usually plays second fiddle to vision when riding motorcycles, people sometimes forget how vulnerable their ears are out there on the road. The sound of your helmet traveling through the air at highway speeds is more than enough to damage your hearing over the long term – or even the short term if you’re wearing an open face or half-helmet. While it may go counter to your initial thoughts, wearing earplugs can actually help you hear better. When your ears aren’t completely overwhelmed, you have the ability to hear more sounds.
Until recently, your primary choice for protecting your ears was the faithful foam earplug. The good news is that, when properly inserted, they work better than just about anything else at lessening the intensity of the sound reaching your ears. However, they have some shortcomings. First, if improperly inserted, their effectiveness is radically lessened. Second, many riders feel that the uneven damping of frequencies make sounds muffled and unclear.
Currently, we’re experiencing a Gold Rush of new earplugs directed towards powersports and other noisy activities. These new generation earplugs have actually been tuned for the frequencies they attenuate, making it possible for riders to protect their ears and still be able to carry on a conversation at a stoplight.
What Are The Best Motorcycle Earplugs?
This is really a loaded question, as there are so many variables that come into play, not least of which is the shape of your ears. As such, there is no single answer. Are you trying to block certain frequencies, or do you simply want to block as much noise as possible? Do you want your earplugs to have speakers built-in, or is a simple piece of foam all you need? Ultimately, the best earplugs are the ones that fit your needs and your budget. Read on to find what the best motorcycle earplugs are available for riders.
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All of the Motorcycle.com staff have worn these earplugs and found them to be comfortable and quiet. One of the unique features is that EarPeace earplugs allow the user to switch between one of three levels of included filters to choose the best amount of sound damping for their needs. These filters nest inside of dual-flanged pieces of silicone which make up the body of the earplug. On the back of the EarPeace earplugs is a silicone tab for easy extraction. With the ability to swap out filters that provide variable levels of noise damping, the EarPeace earplugs are a step above many others in terms of versatility. One characteristic that should be noted is that they sometimes rotate in the ear canal, making it difficult to grab the small tab for removal. Read our full review for more information.
A relatively new entry on the earplug scene, the EarPeace Moto Pro earplugs offer some distinct advantages over their lower-priced sibling. The unique oval shape mates quite easily with the ear canal, providing a snug fit and without the occasional rotation we experienced with the standard EarPeace earplugs. According to the manufacturer, the redesigned filters act as the primary eardrum, replicating the sound precisely – only at a lower volume. However, the Pro comes with a trade-off. You only get one kind of filter, so choose your dB reduction carefully. We always go for the highest level of sound attenuation (the Max Protection 24 dB). You also get an extra earplug and filter, in case you lose one plug. The aluminum container is still a nice touch.
Pros/Unique shape for rotation-free fit
Alpine is an innovator and leader in quality hearing protection with 25 years R&D experience. Additionally, the company has been working for years to create global awareness regarding hearing protection – something we heartily endorse. Produced in the Netherlands, the secret sauce behind the Alpine MotoSafe Motorcycle Earplugs is the the development of the special AlpineThermoShape material and the AlpineAcousticFilters, which make the earplugs unrivaled in terms of comfort and attenuation. The universal shape molds to fit each rider’s ears, offering 21 db of sound reduction. Unlike disposable foam filters that can be hard to fit in some ear shapes, these earplugs are easy to insert, thanks to the tab extending from the filter. Additionally, Alpine MotoSafe Motorcycle Earplugs can be reused hundreds of times.
Pros/Comfort and reusability
Eargasm earplugs have been around since 2015. As with many of the earplugs that utilize attenuation filters, the big selling point for Eargasm plugs is their flat frequency response that leads to the sound not being muffled despite the 20 decibel drop in volume. The packaging and the included aluminum carrying case add to the premium feel of these earplugs.
Pros/A quality product from an early entrant in powersports hearing protection
Many riders are familiar with the Pinlock anti-fog visor inserts, but few know about the company’s earplugs. Constructed out of medical-grade silicone-free materials the flanged earplugs are inserted into the ear canal to form a seal. Pinlock claims the earplugs are all-day comfortable thanks, in part, to the two sizes included in the product box. The protection comes from an “advanced precision filter” that limits the wind noise that can damage hearing while still allowing the frequencies that deliver important information – like sirens, horns, or other road users. Riders should also be able to hear conversations with these plugs in place. Even with those capabilities, the filters are rated at a CE certified 24 decibels of suppression.
Pros/Produced by a well-known motorcycle accessory manufacturer
Loop adds an element of style with its earplugs, with a unique ring shape and a selection of trendy colors like rose gold. Loop claims its Experience earplugs reduce noise by 18 to 20 dB in mid and high frequencies. The earplugs have an acoustic channel specially designed to imitate the length of an ear canal. Loop claims this lets what noise you do hear sound natural, letting you stay aware of your surroundings.
The Loop Experience earplugs come with a carrying case and four sets of silicone ear tip sizes. Loop also offers an Experience Pro version that has an additional membrane to reduce noise with low frequencies. The Pro version also comes with two sets of Loop’s Mute add-on which can reduce noise by another 5 dB.
Pros/Unique, stylish design
Etymotic is widely known within the music industry for making high-fidelity earplugs, earbuds, and ear monitors for much longer than many of the other filtered earplugs now on the market. (I have been riding with them for years since I was never happy with how foam plugs fit in my ear canals.) The Etymotic ER-20XS High-Fidelity Earplugs are a new form-factor that sit closer to the ear and work much better with helmets than the previous model. Each earplug reduces the sound intensity by 20-dB across the spectrum of frequencies that the ear can detect. Essentially, you hear everything the same – only quieter. The flanged earplugs are available in standard and large fit to accommodate different ear canal sizes.
Pros/Etymotic is a major player in the music world and knows all about sound
At many motorcycle events, you may have seen people getting brightly colored goo injected into their auditory canal, but that’s not the only place you can get custom-molded earplugs. Decibullz are one option on the market that allow you to make your own custom earplugs at home. Custom earplugs will only fit the unique ear shape of their owner, giving them easier insertion and a perfect fit for maximum attenuation of noise – to the tune of 31 db! Like with foam plugs, some people feel that these solid custom plugs mute the sound too much, making it hard to hear things that riders want to hear, such as approaching traffic or conversation at a stop. Still, it’s hard to argue with earplugs made specifically to fit your unique ear canals. Plus, custom earplugs are the only ones motorcyclists are legally allowed to use in Maryland.
Pros/Hearing protection for only your ears
Welcome to Old School hearing protection. Just because Hearos foam earplugs don’t use fancy filters to damp the sound intensity doesn’t mean that time has marched on, leaving them behind. They are still some of the best motorcycle earplugs you can buy. If you’re looking for the highest amount of noise-reduction you can buy, Hearos claims a rating of NRR 33, the highest attenuation in this buyer’s guide. A word of caution, though: The protection offered by foam earplugs is highly dependent on proper insertion in the ear canal.
Pros/Cheap, effective, and essentially disposable
Motorcycles and Hearing Loss
In terms of rider education and injury prevention, a great deal of attention is paid to motorcycle safety by the government, motorcycle industry, and media. However, the subject of hearing loss among motorcyclists is rarely discussed. Yes, riders sometimes make passing remarks about ear fatigue after a long day in the saddle, and recent years have (in my subjective opinion) shown an increase in earplug use among riders. Still, the subject and the use of actual, provable scientific numbers have been relatively overlooked when compared to safety items like body armor and helmets.
Roughly one out of every 10 Americans suffer from hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal conversation. The most common kind of hearing loss is the exposure to excessive noise, and the simple act of riding a motorcycle puts riders at risk for becoming part of those statistics. The wind noise at highway speeds can expose motorcyclists to sound levels in excess of 100 dB – that’s the equivalent of using a chain saw or standing in the middle of a dance club. Helmetless riders can experience noise 10 times greater than that, resulting in potential hearing loss in as little as 30 minutes. Hopefully your rides last longer than a half-hour.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities.
When we consider hearing loss, we need to keep two things in mind. First, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is preventable. Second, NIHL is permanent. Once that hearing is gone, it’s gone forever.
NIHL in the workplace has been well documented, and OSHA has made rules regarding what is an acceptable duration of exposure to various levels of noise. Using these standards as a baseline, riders can learn what the relative intensity of noise they’re facing when they ride and make educated decisions on how to minimize their long-term risk for hearing loss. Read the rest of the article.
Motorcycle Earplug FAQ
Should I wear earplugs on my motorcycle?
Ask a room full of motorcyclists this question and half the room will respond… “What? Speak up. I can’t hear you.” In our opinion, you should listen to the other half of the room. As mentioned at the top of this page, just the wind noise can hurt your ears if sustained long enough. And you don’t need to be traveling fast, either. There’s a misconception that wearing earplugs means you won’t be able to hear a thing. While it’s true it might be harder to hear someone in their car talking to you at a stoplight, you definitely don’t lose your sense of hearing, and you often are able to hear your own motorcycle better. The thing about hearing loss is that it doesn’t occur overnight. Years of riding without earplugs will inevitably cause damage, and though you may not go completely deaf, your ears will definitely not be as sharp as they could be.
Is it Legal to Wear Earplugs While Riding a Motorcycle?
Before investing in some motorcycle earplugs, you may want to check whether it’s legal in your state to wear them when operating a motorcycle. Generally speaking, most states don’t have any laws prohibiting earplugs, therefore making them legal (or more accurately, “not illegal.”) According to the American Motorcyclist Association, only California, Ohio and Maryland have restrictions on riding with earplugs.
Ohio has an outright ban on wearing earplugs in both ears when operating any vehicle, though there is legislation currently being reviewed by a state senate committee that would permit motorcyclists to wear ear protection. In California, earplugs are allowed so long as they do not inhibit the rider from hearing horns from other vehicles or sirens from emergency vehicles. The law in Maryland is similar, but further restricts riders to using just custom earplugs.
Are custom earplugs better?
Not necessarily. To get into the reasons why, it’s easiest to create a pros and cons list. The Pros of going custom are self explanatory, primarily the fact you have a set of earplugs you know will fit your ears. Also, some companies can integrate custom speakers into the mold, turning your custom earplugs into a set of custom earbuds, to attach to your phone, GPS, or other device. Alternatively, there are cons to going custom. First of which is the cost. Going with custom earplugs is expensive (relatively speaking) and you may not need them if off-the-shelf plugs fit in your ear canal just fine. Being a one-of-one entity, if you lose your custom earplugs, you’re screwed. Granted, silicone earplugs are also a financial burden if they’re lost, but the ding on your wallet isn’t nearly as bad as custom. Compared to generic foam jobs, however, the cost delta is huge. Another issue with custom earplugs that affects a small number of people is it sealing so well against your ear that it disrupts your equilibrium. We would have never considered this ourselves if it didn’t happen to one of our own MO staff members. Obviously, keeping your balance on a motorcycle is important.
July 15, 2021: Added Loop Experience earplugs.
March 1, 2022: Removed out of stock items. Added hearing loss information.
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