I’m convinced Quasimodo suffered from tinnitus. The amount of time he spent ringing church bells, very loud ones at that, without ear protection had to have a significant effect on his hearing. As motorcyclists we too are exposed to some significant noise while out riding. It’s in our best interest to reduce that noise so we don’t eventually go nuts like our friend Mr Modo. I’ve put together this review on different types of hearing protection so you don’t end up hearing bells ringing when none actually are.
I’ve been riding for about 9 years now and for the majority of that time I’ve not worn any hearing protection, to my shame. It’s not something that you get taught while learning to ride, or at least not when I did my training. It wasn’t until I noticed most of the Observers at LAM using them that I started to take notice. There had to be sense behind it. So over the past few years I’ve explored various options to find the best option, for me at least.
These are the ones you find almost everywhere – they are cheap and you can buy them in bulk. They do the trick in that they reduce road and wind noise somewhat and they are easily available. You squish them up a little before putting them in your ears, and they expand to fill the space. My only real problem with them is that they don’t stay in my ears properly and so loose their effectiveness. Compared to the other options they aren’t as good at cutting down on the noise but they are better than not having anything. I would say don’t waste your money buying a pack of 4 in a plastic container and instead just buy them in bulk as you’ll go through them pretty quickly.
You’ll probably find these for about £15-£20 in most bike shops or online stores. They seem to do a better job at reducing noise when compared to the buds and feel a little bit more comfortable. They feel more special than the buds too but that could be because they are packaged nicer. The ones I bought come in a small metal tube for storage that is unnoticeable in my jacket pocket. For me these seem the best value for money as they are still quite cheap and you’ll reuse them, although a clean every so often is a good idea.
These are moulded to your ear with the aim of having a perfect fit which will significantly reduces road noise. And in that respect they do a great job and are far superior to the buds and silicone ones. I had a problem with the fit though; struggling get them in properly and after a while they were just uncomfortable to wear. For all the money I paid I felt somewhat disappointed that they weren’t comfortable, and if you buy the ones with the headphone implant I just didn’t feel like I was getting my money’s worth. The quality of the ones with the earphones inside seemed “cheap” considering spending almost £200. I can’t fault them on noise reduction but I’ve only used mine 3 times before going back to the silicone ones. In saying all that my good biker buddy friend rates his highly and is on his third set (because he keeps losing them).
Bose Noise Cancelling in-ear headphones.
I travel by plane quite regularly for work and on one trip where I was coming back having had not much sleep I decided to invest in some. They were amazing! I decided to try them out on my bike as I figured road noise was similar to that constant roar of the plane engines you just can’t get away from. Again they were amazing! These would have to be the ultimate tech for dramatically cutting out road and wind noise. They were very comfortable under the helmet too and stayed in my ears even if I tugged on the cable (although it too hard). The down side is the price though as they certainly aren’t cheap. But I would suggest that if your considering Ultimate Ear then save up a little bit more and go for these as the wow factor is so much better. If the noise cancelling is off then they are just as good as the silicone buds. The other downside is that you have to ensure they are charged, although in my tech heavy world this will never be a problem.
So in order of preference – Bose NC headphones, silicone buds, ultimate ear and buds.
Regardless of what you go for, the important thing is to have at least something. One of my biker friends is suffering from tinnitus because in his 15 years of riding he’s never worn any hearing protection. I suffer from tinnitus myself but mine is an hereditary thing but trust me when I say it’s not fun. I’m doing my best now to protect my good ear and I put it out there to say that it’s your best interests to protect your own wars.