I am a big proponent of ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time), but when I started riding ear protection never even occurred to me. Years later, I was reading about track days and I saw ear protection was strongly suggested. There are benefits beyond just protecting your hearing. Blocking out wind noise helps you concentrate on the road and your riding. Your brain becomes less fatigued when there is less noise bombarding the ears and as a result you can keep a higher level of alertness. Since I had my helmet on and I couldn't use my fingers to plug my ears, I tried using ear plugs. Once I started using ear plugs, I never stopped. Every time I ride, I protect my ears and as a result my ride is safer and more enjoyable. I have experimented with many different ear plugs and I have settled on a few favorites I want to tell you about.
For starters, I always wear a full face helmet. I also use a SENA SMH10 communicator on all my helmets. The SENA speakers are about 3/16” thick so they do take up some room in the helmets. My current collection of helmets that I use is a Shoei X-Eleven, Arai XD4, and a Fox V1. Each of these helmets fits and feels different. The Shoei X-Eleven is a race fit helmet and there really isn't much room in the ear pockets. The Arai XD4 and the Fox V1 have plenty of room in the ear pockets.
There are three types of ear protection I use depending on the ride and the helmet. Each of them have their merits.
3M E-A-Rsoft FX
Out of all the different foam ear plugs I have tried, these are my favorite. 3M claims a 33db noise reduction rate. I have used these for many hours and I do believe they provide excellent protection for your ears. While wearing these ear plugs I can still hear my engine enough while riding and my SENA can be heard more clearly at about ¾ volume. I am able to use these earplugs in all of my helmets. In the Shoei X-Eleven there is a small amount of contact between the ear plug and speaker, but it is not bothersome. These ear plugs are soft enough that they just conform to the speaker. I have not had any issues with these ear plugs being pulled out while putting any of my helmets on.
- Cheap (Average about .08 cents per pair)
- They come individually wrapped
- Sometimes they get really dirty and you need more than one pair on a ride. Especially on dual sport rides.
- They take a little bit of time to allow them to swell in your ear.
- If they are not placed properly the hearing protection is poor.
- No container or carrying case
Natural Ear Plugs
These ear plugs are made of beeswax, cotton, and lanolin. In order to use these ear plugs you have to kneed them before putting them in your ears. As you kneed them they warm up to your body temperature and become soft. I have found that inserting these takes the most time of any of the ear plugs I have used. It’s best to put it in your ear and slowly work it into your ear canal to avoid an air pressure lock as you push the ear plug in. Once you get these ear plugs fully inserted there is a complete seal on your ear. The seal is even waterproof and after a few minutes they fully warm up and conform to your ear canal and provide a custom fit. Out of all the ear plugs I have tried, these are the most comfortable for the long haul. If you have smaller ears you can simply pinch off the amount you need and customize the fit. Since these ear plugs take a little bit longer to insert I usually only use them for the longer rides where I am not stopping as much. The first time you wear these they feel eerily quiet. I mean near total silence. Out of all the ear plugs, these provide the most sound reduction I have ever seen. Since they fit flush on my ear I can use any of the helmets with them comfortably. I can still use my SENA with these ear plugs, but I do have to turn it all the way up for it to be audible. I would suggest purchasing the sample case with one pair and if you like them buy more than one pair at a time, but keep the carrying case for a single pair.
- Best hearing protection with near silence.
- Fully customized fit.
- Most comfortable.
- Last a long time for disposable ear plugs
- Come with a carrying case.
- Comfortable for long periods of time
- Take the longest to insert properly.
- If you insert them too fast you can get an air pressure build up that is uncomfortable.
- More expensive than other disposable ear plugs ($6.95 for one pair in a sample pack)
- Can leave small traces of the material in your ear. Just use a Q-tip to clean it out.
The Faders are not disposable ear plugs. They are made with a metal body and they come with four different sizes of silicone fittings to customize them for your ears. You can get them in black, red, or pink. These ear plugs claim a 12 db reduction. They are the quickest ear plugs to insert and the easiest to insert properly. They do include a removable lanyard and the carrying case can be used as a pendant if desired. With my testing I did find that the lanyard needs to be removed when you are using them with a helmet. You can get the helmet on OK, but when you take the helmet off the lanyard screws get caught by the helmet liner. This pulls them out of your ears in an uncomfortable fashion. If you leave the lanyard off it is not an issue. The Faders are not what I would consider large, but they do stick out of the ear a little bit. As a result I am unable to use these with my Shoei X-Eleven helmet. If I did not have the SENA speakers installed in the Shoei helmet they would work fine. The Shoei helmet has fairly small ear pockets. Since the faders have a metal body the speakers push them into my ear too far for comfort. They did work very well in the Arai XD4 and the Fox V1 helmets with speakers installed. I have found that the Faders do not block out enough sound when riding at higher speeds, but when riding trails on the dual sport bike they work well. When you need to communicate with your riding buddies its easier to hear them.
- Different size fittings for a custom fit.
- Quickest and easiest to insert properly.
- Carrying case included.
- Lanyard included if you need to use them while not riding.
- Better at letting good sounds through while still limiting loud noises.
- Most expensive ($20.00) However, since they are not disposable they could save money over time.
- Unable to use them in my Shoei helmet with speakers installed.
- The least amount of noise reduction, and not really adequate at higher speeds.
Ear protection is important and it is good to have options. I use and recommend each of these products. Depending on the ride and situation they each have their moments to shine. If you are not used to wearing ear plugs please take it slow when you first start. When I first started wearing ear plugs, it was a little weird and disorienting when I couldn't hear my engine as well. It took me about 10-15 minutes to acclimate and get comfortable. Now, I feel naked without my ear protection. Plug those ears, protect your hearing, and keep those brains sharp out there!
If you guys have any other ear plugs you use and recommend post them in the comments below. Your fellow riders will appreciate it.
****If you decide to try some of the ear plugs I mentioned please use the above links to purchase through Amazon. Spirit Strike will earn a small commision and help keep the website going.****