If you ride a motorcycle without ear plugs, you are going to damage your hearing. The noise level from winds at highway speeds is sufficient to cause tinnitus and permanent damage over time, and there is no helmet quiet enough to adequately protect your hearing on its own. If you don’t want permanent ringing in your ears or hearing loss, you need to wear ear plugs.
A secondary benefit of ear plugs for beginner motorcycle riders is a calming effect. The noise reduction makes riding much less stressful while learning how to ride, which is the other reason I always encourage new riders to make a habit of wearing them. There’s also a huge variety of plug types to choose from, so I’ll cover a few of them here.
Foam Ear Plugs
Foam ear plugs are the most common and easiest to find; you can buy them at almost any drug store. The packaging will indicate a NRR (noise reduction rating); I recommend a NRR of at least 25 decibels but prefer 30 when it comes to foam plugs, and the type with the mushroom shape (the orange ones in the picture above) because they’re easier to remove from your ear.
Sometimes it’s a little tricky to get them situated in your ear correctly; you need to pinch them until they’re narrow enough to put into your ear canal, then insert them quickly before they expand. Once they’re properly inserted and have expanded after several seconds, you should have a nice seal and background noise will become quite muffled; it should be difficult to have a conversation with someone. The real test is when you start riding; if the wind noise is still loud, you don’t have a good seal and should pull over to re-situate them. I have large ear canals, so sometimes it takes me 2 or 3 tries to get them correctly situated.
Specialty Ear Plugs
There are a huge number of specialty ear plugs available; Pinlock, NoNoise, and Alpine Motosafe are just a few examples made specifically for motorcycle riding. Some of them have different models depending on the desired noise reduction rating, while others are specially designed to let some noise through (in-helmet communication or music devices). There’s no way to know how well they will work for your particular ear canal and preference without trying them though, so be prepared to spend $20 USD or more to find out.
My personal preference is to just block out as much noise as possible while still allowing me to hear sirens and nearby cars, and I don’t use in-helmet communicators or listen to music while I’m riding. Everyone is different, but again, the important part is to cut the wind noise down sufficiently to prevent hearing damage.
What I Use
I bought a set of Loop Quiet ear plugs from Loop, a Belgian company that makes all-purpose ear plugs. This particular set has a NRR of 25 decibels, and thankfully includes three sizes of ear tips. I ended up using the middle size which allows me to rotate them until they fit snugly in my ear canal, creating a perfect seal. The ring makes removing them very easy, though I’m careful to take them out slowly to avoid damaging my ear drum with sudden suction.
- Every motorcycle rider should wear ear plugs
- They prevent hearing damage and help keep beginner riders calm
- Everyone’s ears and ear canals are different, so finding the right type of plug takes some experimentation
- I recommend a NRR (noise reduction rating) of 25 decibels or more