Tinnitus, wear earplugs

Earplugs for riding motorcycles

by Duane Ausherman

What is tinnitus?

The first group is from the BMW motorcycle /5 United group email list.   Thanks to George for collecting and condensing the answers

From the /5 United Yahoo group

Okay, we got a flood of messages on earplugs, and they all basically said the same thing.  Earplugs are good.  I’ve cut out important pieces of the posts and deleted the rest.  I think this pretty much covers the topic.   Everyone agrees that they are good, but you will never get everyone to wear them.  So, here are the comments:

Modern earplugs can help hold out the extremes yet still allow you to hear traffic, sirens, horns, etc.  I would go so far as to say that a radio in a car impairs your hearing more than a set of earplugs on a motorcycle.   Is it a pain in the ass to use them?  Yes, it is, but when you can’t go to sleep at night due to the ringing, you will wish to no end that you had gotten into the habit. – Randy Long

“The decibel scale is not logarithmic on base e, but on base 10, which means that 10 dB extra is a 10-fold increase in noise.  3dB doubles the noise level.”  –Cris

“I’d just point out that the best disposables typically reduce noise on order of 30-34 dB and don’t eliminate it entirely.  With noise levels of 90 dB, the earplugs just bring it down into a more tolerable range.”  — BMC

These are from Boxerworks.com

1.   I have narrow ear canals and have problems with earplugs fitting properly.  I worked with our audiologist there at the hospital where I am employed.  I have found that North Com-fit AB model Z281601 fit my ears canals and reduce the noise level greatly.  I believe that the earplugs allow me to ride at least 100 miles extra per day than without earplugs.  I only wish that I had worn hearing protection when I was younger, maybe I would not have the constant ringing, and would be able to hear what my wife says, but that may be a selective hearing loss.
The important thing with earplugs is that they fit in the ear canal for comfort and function

2.   I have Tinnitus as well, from too many hours working around USAF jet engines.  My wife and I use “Howard Leight” brand “Leight Sleepers” rated 32 dB reduction.  They really lower the wind and tire noise but allow you to hear the traffic around you.  They are shaped like a winged bullet and are softer than the yellow straight sided plugs so you don’t get the feeling of pressure or scratchiness in your ears.

3.   While researching for my work, training sound technicians, I have learned that extended exposure to a loud yet not painful sound, such as the wind noise when traveling at highway speeds on a motorcycle, causes permanent hearing damage to one’s ability to hear sounds in the higher frequencies.  This damage is not usually immediately noticeable, but it is cumulative and results in a considerable acceleration of the natural loss of these frequencies due to aging.  The result is that one finds it more and more difficult to understand speech.  Even when one can hear the sounds, individual words are difficult to discern.  Picking speech out of background noise can become impossible.

In my own experience, I have found that wearing earplugs makes long trips significantly less tiring.  The “Hearos” brand soft foam plugs are the ones that I have found the most comfortable for myself.  With all the foam plugs, the prices plummet if you buy them in bulk.  By buying 25 pairs or more, you can sometimes get the price down to a dime or less a pair.

Kurt Munger

4.   I’m increasingly trying to lip read when in a crowded room and having a conversation.   In my early riding days, I have memories of ears ringing for hours after day-long high speed riding without plugs.  I did start to wear plugs but maybe too late.    These days I use them just commuting.  The cheap roll up yellow ones does the job for me.   I buy them in bulk and change them about every 1000km.  If you’re not careful it’s not unknown to get fungal ear infections so I try to change them regularly.   I buy these cheap ones because if I lose them they’re easily replaced.  If I lost an expensive custom set I’d be really pissed.


5.   Add me to the list of the tinnitus afflicted.  And I’m hard of hearing too, naturally.   One problem I have wearing ear plugs while riding is that without the obscuring noise, the ringing in my ears is much more “present” and much more irritating.


6.   I too am becoming affected by a loss of hearing, it’s not too bad but trying to impress somebody in a noisy pub gets more difficult……..I don’t want to end up as deaf as my Dad who flew bombers in the war.  I find that the single-use type ear plugs get uncomfortable after about 4/6 hours, there are various companies in the UK who will take impressions of your ear and make plugs to fit, but they are comfortable for longer.
The upside is that the plugs filter out much of the mechanical noises from a BMW!


I have used a lot of different types of earplugs and find the Leight Plugs, sold at Rite Aid, the best.  They are soft (softer than most–I have small ear canals), throwaways, that I have worn as much as 20 hours per day with no soreness or problems.  I wear them when riding, then all night long when camping or sleeping in strange places.  Also, they allow me a good night’s rest at home, when my wife snores.  They cost about $4 for a pack of 10 pairs.  I seem to get a month or two out of a pair when worn each night.  They are a bright orange in color and seem to be available at most Rite Aid stores.

Bill Baedke

Are there new technologies to deal with this issue?  Please tell us.