Motorcycle Ear Plugs: Can You Hear Me Now?

Motorcycle  EarplugsI’ve done a lot of riding over the years — and most of it without ear plugs. Throw in a whole bunch of rock concerts from a long time ago, and you have a recipe for aural attenuation (reduced hearing).

Some guys/gals don’t like ear plugs — and I can understand why. It takes more time to get on to the road while you insert them in your ears. When you stop for gas, it’s harder to speak with others, unless you take the plugs out. Ideally, you would then clean your hands before you put new plugs in, so you don’t get anything untoward in your ear canals. And that can slow things down a little more.

Ear plugs have made their way into my road gear over the last few years. Particularly when I’m going on longer rides. The reduced noise just makes the trip more comfortable…up to a point. Perhaps I haven’t tried enough different kinds of ear plugs, but the barrel-foam variety that I use, as well as the re-usable rubbery types that I often wear, create their own fatigue after several hours. Somewhere between 3 and 5 hours, they start to become a nuisance. The good news is that when I take them out after a chunk of riding, and then continue on my merry way, I’m definitely more refreshed than I would have been without them.

There are some riding adjustments I need to make when I’ve got the plugs in. I have noticed that I tend to go faster and I’m guessing it’s because the engine is quieter so it “sounds” like I’m going slower than I really am.

For me, ear plugs just add an additional element of riding safety: I’m more alert for longer periods of time. I’m more comfortable. It’s important to note that ear plugs do not reduce all the noise: I can still hear what’s going on around me. The ambient sound is just softer. It’s not as quiet as driving in a car, but it’s a more pleasant way to spend longer hours in the saddle.

The lessened noise reduces general fatigue by cutting down the strain on my ears. Hopefully, this will help reduce the amount of future persons that will be repeating in my direction “Can You Hear Me Now?” (Or is that just a standard cell phone conversation?)

Do you use ear plugs?

63 thoughts on “Motorcycle Ear Plugs: Can You Hear Me Now?

  • I have had a lawn care business for 37 years and run all kinds of power equipment. I didnt wear ear protection for the first 20 years, (young and dumb) when my ears wouldnt stop ringing I used ear plugs and it helps but whats done is done, no turning back the clock on hearing loss. I also wear ear plugs when I ride, it keeps the wind out of my ears and helps alot.

  • I work in a loud, dirty environment. We use the foam plugs there and I’ve found that you can tie them up in a sock and toss them in the washer with a load of clothes and they come out looking new. Won’t ride, mow the lawn or work without them

  • i just got home from a trip approx. 1008.6 miles from my door to my door and didnt have ear plugs in now that im home i cant hear anything but you best belive i will have ear plugs in my next trip i cant handle the pressure in my head from not having them in i really wish i knew how long before i can hear again would be lol

  • Plugs make longer trips more comfortable (reducing wind noise etc) but it’s crucial to protect and preserve your hearing. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I also wear noise canceling headphones when I cut my lawn. Makes a huge difference in hearing when I’m done. At least I can hear you when you say I look like a dork!

  • All this talk about earplugs has me worried. I’m a brand new rider with relatively quiet (at least to me) Suzuki Marauder 800. So far I only ride for 30-40 minutes at a time, around town, to/from work…IN NYC. Oh yeah, and I wear a full face helmet that’s pretty quiet and cuts down on wind in/around my ears. Obviously as a newbie on the streets of the Big Apple I WANT/NEED to hear as much road sound and even the sounds of my bike in order to be safe + learn how my bike operates. Am I really running the risk of good by not wearing plugs, at least for now?

  • Start I’ve been riding ..something two to three to four wheelers since I was 5 yrs. old. I’ve used ear plug’s for a very long time. I just sold my Valkyrie that had six into six exhaust, I also have a Harley Police with screaming Eagle exhaust and my Goldwing, I’ve used various plug’s I currently like the small round soft foam with a stem. This allows full depth into the ear cavity where the comfort zone of my ear is. Like that part of your ear was made for a plug. And yes the long rides which I do all the time makes for a much more relaxing ride. Plus they are safety designed to cut down ont what is already known as unuseful sound Freq.’s. So you can really hear important sounds over just a bunch of engine ,exhaust and wind noise. I even heard a tapping screw that recently got started in my rear tire and stopped and got it out before it was driven into the air cavity of the tire. (Saved down time, money and possibily avoided an accident) So try them, there are a ton of different ones out there don’t buy a box of them before you know they fit your ear. I went to a safety supply company l like Northern Safety they have a various selection. ( will get you there.).
    Good luck, Ride Safe and Ride Often…… Buddy

  • I started riding again 2 years ago, both a Fat Boy and an RT. I wear foam plugs and just got molded plugs at the NY Show. After my 1st week riding I had vicious tinitus kick in. Too much loud rock and fast convertibles, who knows!!!
    Now when I ride, it can be as short as a mellow 1/2 hour(30-50 MPH in the quiet RT) the ringing kicks in more. I hear it constantly 24/7, even if I don’t ride for 3 weeks. I am not sure if just the physical plugs stuff in my ears also add to the ringing or irritation.
    Have tried this stuff, Quietus for 3 months to no avail and my Dr. (ex-military guy, around tanks and gun fire) gave my some steroid to cut the ringing. Nothing has helped. It is BRUTAL. If anyone has any ANY suggestions, please post or send an e-mail direct to me-, anything would be highly appreciated. THANKS, NJ

  • Can’t imagine ridding without them until eventually there is a helmet wich is SO quiet that I don’t need them. I agree that I do find myself going faster than I think I am due to less wind noise but that’s what speedo’s are for. Personally have found the silicone style earplugs to be the most comfortable plus you can reshape them a little if they do become annoying. Cheap at all most all drug stores.

  • I never ride without them. Wind noise will wear you down and cause mental fatigue. It’s doesn’t take away all the sound but takes enough of an edge off it to make a difference. I’ve already got tinnitus. Don’t need it to get any worse.

  • as both a rider and someone who has the misfortune to sit in traffic next to idling muffler-less bikers, if it’s loud enough for you to need earplugs, it’s loud enough to be abusive to the people around you.

  • While I do not have a loud exhaust (bone stock Katana), I always ride with ear plugs. I find they alleviate wind roar and fatigue on long rides, plus it helps to keep critters out of my ears during spring and summer months. I have tried several brands and have found Hearos to work best. They are relatively cheap at $4.00 for 10 pair, and I usually toss em after a week of use.

  • I prefer NOT to wear ear plugs as I depend on listening to the sound of the motor to tell me when to make my shifts. Ear plugs tend to muffle the sound of an engine and I prefer to hear every sound my motor makes. I am very much ‘in tune’ with my bike as I’m sure most other riders are as well. I have been riding for 30+ years and I can just about tell how fast I am going just by listening the the sound and reving of the motor. However, I DO wear earplugs when swimming:)

  • It’s not the noise that causes hearing loss so much as the wind blowing really hard into your ear canal. I rode motorcycles for most of my life and still do but now always put in ear plugs. The foam ones are cheap and I usually take a few of them on trips with me. I change them regularly and don’t put them in if they look dirty.

  • I have not used ear plugs while riding yet. I may give it a try.

    I do know that when I witched from a 1/2 to a 3/4 helmet the wind noise relief was great! Of course my 3/4 with a visor changes the wind noise I do hear but it is lower in volume.

    I will give plugs a try and hope they don’t fall out and rattle about the ear chamber of my helmet! I have enough rattles in my head already!

  • As a motorcyclist since 1966 I have had my days of wind noise and engine drone till I thought my head would explode and then the nights of continual ringing in the ears eliminating a good nights sleep. Several years ago I went to a GPS system with voice prompt and XM radio with head phones in the helmet. This did not help the noise situation and actually made it worse as you tended to turn up the volume to blast over the wind noise.
    I then hooked up to a set of custom molded ear plugs with transducers in them. WHAT A BLESSING!! The custom fit eliminates all wind noise and you can turn the volume way down and just hear a good tune and cruise down the road. I live in Florida and made a trip to Montana (Glacier National Park) with no discomfort the whole 5000+ miles

  • i wear ear plugs every day of the work week. have for the past 33 years. work in a steel foundry and wish would have worn them the first 2 years. only your eye sight is more valuable. dont wear them on bike but after some long riding wish i put them in. wear em. the soft foam ones are good and cheap. not hard to find.

  • well I am 50 and I have only ever used ear plugs in work (WELDER) and only when I have to and I have never had any probs……. What did you say????? LoL

    Joking aside it all depends on what you ride or sould I say what can you have 🙂 and how fast you go. But talking about ears the one thing I would tell everyone
    intercom there is nothing more dangerous then having the misses shouting at you:
    Your riding to fast
    you took that corner to quick
    you cant overtake here

    thinking about it


    Roy Englishman living in Finland

  • I have never even thought about ear plugs, I’m about to get my first bike and I will definitely be investing in some plugs. I always thought you needed to hear everything around you, I guess wind noise can be pretty loud, not being in”the cage”anymore…
    Great post

  • I had moulded ear plugs made but they are not quiet enough for me, I prefer the reusable silicone multi-ring units.

  • The problem I have when I use ear plugs is that while the outside noise is diminished, the voice in my head that says, “Go faster”,is amplified.

  • I never leave home without them. My hearing is shot after working 20 years in the subways of NYC as a transit Cop. Then over 20 years in the lawn business, (yes I am an old fart). I have tried all kinds of plugs and finally had a custom pair made. They control the wind noise, but you can still hear important sounds. I had them made at a hearing specialist, and a hearing test was part of the package so that they could match the plug material density to my hearing. All I can say is I love them. As a side note I had the right one colored green and the left one red, to save time putting them in lol.


  • They gave me an ear infection. I didn’t clean them at all bit started as a pimple and progressed to facial swelling. A friend flank is a ENT doc did minor surgery and put me on ten days of Keflex. It all resolved and I wish I could say that I am better about cleaning them. I am planning to buy some alcohol wipes to keep on the scoot. I still ride with them every ride

  • I have been an audio engineer for almost 20 years, and I would never go into a concert without my fitted ear plugs. But then I got a bike for the first time in forever, and did not even think about the plugs until the first time I heard the “numb buzz” of a longer ride.

    Wise words here in this post – and something each of us should make sure we follow. A little extra time to put them in is well worth it when you’ll still be able to enjoy your Favorite record or a hushed conversation.

    The great thing about fitted plugs is they, in essence, turn the overall volume down. Generic plugs (barrel or foam type) merely attenuate certain frequencies, making sound muffled, and potentially frustrating. I would think fitted plugs, allowing all frequencies trough, ought to make for a safer ride as well. Less fatigue, less hearing loss, more fun.

  • For many years I did not use ear plugs and from that & heavy equipment I lost much of my hearing. Once I started using ear plugs I cannot ride without them. The wind noise cancels out the sounds you need to hear. Proper ear plugs will actually improve your riding enjoyment as well as make you a safer and more alert rider. I have had custom ones made and did not care for them. I have found Hearos Water Protection Series and Aqua Seal ear plugs work well and last indefinitely. I try to soak them in Isopropyl Alcohol once a week to ensure they are free of bacteria. If you get the correct ones you will not know you have them in your ears except that the ride is much more enjoyable. I have never had any ear infection issue and I ride 25k a year. It sure is an inexpensive way to improve your safey and riding enjoyment.

  • Well guys… iv been riding 4 months ago my 750 shadow, and suddenly i dont feel or even hear by the my right ear, i went to the doctor and still im having some medications, but i realy believe that wind caused that even when i was wearing the helmet as when you hit 100 miles per hour wind start going all over and if it is cold , most probably you can catch a cold in you ear or even your neck, i hope that my hearing in my right ear comes back to norm. as im going grazy feeling that there is vacume in my right ear. Thanks for the blog.

  • The safety aspects of ear plugs on reducing conditions that may lead to hearing loss is appreciated. From another angle, will you be able to respond to hooters or other verbal cues from other motorits if you are in a situation that cause an accident?

  • One of the benefits I have found about wearing earplugs is that I feel warmer. On a cold Indiana night it is a great comfort. Probably psychosomatic but that is okay with me. I also don’t have a head ache after a long day of riding.

  • I work for a Town Road Department and we have mandatory Safety Classes, including on PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). One key Safety tool is earplugs. The general, non-scientific rule of thumb is that if you need to raise your voice to talk, and/or you have difficulty holding a conversation with someone 3 feet away, then you NEED to wear hearing protection. There is NO question that wind and road noise on a bike puts you in this category pretty much every time you’re riding at 40mph and above.

    Bottom-line: If you ride, and you like to hear things, music, friends, your kids, one day your grandkids, then you MUST wear earplugs. Seriously, you WILL lose big chunks of your hearing if you don’t…

  • I have only been riding steady for 2 years now and always worn earplugs. I don’t see how you can ride with out them. I did notice that riding my friends bike with a full windshield on the front did cut down 90% of wind noise in my helmet, but not the loud pipes. So there do you really need ear plugs? Probably still, and with my FJR I love the wind in my face and upper body but not the helmet noise that is created. So what very little problem if any. there is with the fit of the plugs on the long rides, I don’t think it would hurt to start to wear them now if you don’t already. I average 10,000 miles a year and don’t ride with out them. The foam ones do get dirty fast, so the rubber or plastic ones with strings work best.

  • Try the EARSoft Grippers. They are a little hard to find, but are fabulous. I think they only sell the version with a line attached, but I just cut that off. Comfortable and quiet!

  • I just finished a 600 mile trip and after not wearing ear plugs for the first 400 miles I was really getting sick of the scream of 18 wheeler tires as I passed them. I stopped into a grocery store and picked up a set of 7 Heros earplugs. They have a 33 db noise reduction. I ride a Gold Wing, so the engine noise it not an issue.

  • Thank You forrrr this post ! I have been dragging my feet about getting ear plugs. I know I should, but I haven’t. I’m finally going to do it.

  • I started wearing ear plugs in 1998 and will seldom ride with out them. My normal yearly ridding is 20,000 miles so I get a lot of exposure at higher noise levels.
    I have had 6 or 7 sets of custom fitted ear plugs made by Miracle Ear and just won’t get on the bike with out them.
    I also have 3 sets of custom made ear phone sets and they work out just great.

    My wife thinks they do little for her so she has elected not to wear them but I can tell that her hearing is not as good today as it was a few years ago.


  • Wind noise is the big culprit while riding, ranging from 90dB at 40 mph to 110 at 100 mph. The average noise level according to studies done by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety is 100 dB. The maximum exposure time to that level before permanent hearing loss begins is .25 hrs.

    When I starting riding again, the deep rumble of the pipes and the blast of the wind was all part of the experience. Sadly, the result of that experience was permanent hearing loss as confirmed by hearing tests done at an auditory clinic. I had molded plugs made by the clinic and now wear either them or quality commerial plugs for industry on all rides.

    There is no doubt I found the pressure in the ears irritating at times, but after having spoken with riding veterans who suffer from tinnitus or must now wear hearing aids, the minor irritation is well worth it!

  • Rode for years without earplugs and a lot of my hearing is gone due to that mistake! Thought that earplugs take away from the experience. Well there are lots of tones I can’t even hear anymore because of my ignorance.
    Now rare is the occasion I would go anywhere without my earplugs in, not only does it cut out the ride noise, it makes the ride on long trips much more enjoyable! I don’t feel so worn down after a day of riding and no more ringing til the next day and not being able to hear anybody.

  • If you think earplugs are annoying or unnecessary, wait until you discover how annoying Tinnitus is. If you don’t know what it is, it is a damage induced ringing in your ears, 24/7/365 – for the rest of your life. I wear earplugs on every ride. EVERY ride. And I would NEVER have stereo speakers of headphones inside my helmet.

  • I wear the Hearos Ultimate Softness Foam Ear Plugs (NRR 32).

    I’ve done 300 milers with them in all day and no problems.

    Their soft and once inserted right very comfortable.

  • I entirely agree on the molded ear plugs. I have tinnitis from the wind noise before I started wearing ear plugs. I have the EAR Inc. molded custom molded plugs with the Musicians Filter. It lowers the decibels of noise to a comfortable level and I can still hear conversation. I always keep the soft foam ones around for backup.

  • I rode a friend’s Honda Shadow 1100 for a total of about 200 miles last fall. He replaced both factory mufflers with straight chrome pipes. I didn’t have any earplugs, but took some extra strength Excedrin for the headache. There’s no excuse for having an engine that loud.

  • I bit the bullet at the DC M/C show last winter and had the silicone ones extruded into my ears. These are the best things you can do if you ride fast and don’t have (nor want) the full bulk and surround of a fairing. Cost $65, but I’ll do it again if I break the little guys.

  • I learned the value of ear plugs since I worked on the flightline in the Air Force in the early 80’s which is when I started riding. I’ve worn different types from the foam, to the silicon ones you get at the hardware store in the safety aisle, to the wax that they sell for swimmers.

    I recently had some made when I went in for a hearing test recently…….hearing is still good just have tinitus….anyway, a week later I hit the road for a 2600 mile ride and don’t know how I’ve gotten along with the over the counter ones all these years. They certainly made the 500 mile days more pleasurable.

    As others have said, the custom ones seem to be the best. I don’t ride without them.

  • i never thought that noise can create such a fatigue while riding
    maybe it because i have never had a ride that long (longest i had was 3hrs with lots of sight seeing and picture taking stops…hehhehehe)

    thanks for the advice!!!

  • I use S&W shooting plugs, fits nicely in the ear canal. I ride a road king with a 124 power plant,

  • In the high noise environment that I worked in for years and now as an instructor in a noisy environment…it’s automatic to use them. They do take some time to get used to. Once you have… the anti-fatigue benefit is well worth it! I use relatively cheap ones…keep a few on hand in the soft bag on the KLR and replace them as needed. Don’t like it when I DON’T have them in.

  • Valid points in the article. I used Mack’s pillow soft, which Target sells in a 12pack case that is slim and fits in my tank bag. Short rides don’t warrant the plugs but longer rides are a necessity. Some helmets are quieter than others, some engines produce different noise/vibrations at certain speeds, and some windscreens create more wind noise than others. One other note; decibel ratings do not guarantee a quiet plug. Things to consider first are comfort and getting the right fit. The foam go inside the ear and as mentioned in the article, they become a nuisance. The silicone plugs their pros & cons too. They cover the ear canal and you can obtain a good seal once you fiddle with your ears. Once sealed you really sense it. You still hear but its greatly reduced. Then con? Drop one and its trash…it’ll pick up grit/dirt, now you know why I buy the 12 pack. However, two days of riding with one pair worked just fine, depending on your hygiene and since its never in your ear canal, you have less of a chance of introducing any nasties in your ear.

    Highly recommend that every rider try them on a long ride and make their own determination if it makes a difference.

  • I don’t understand it…With a properly fitting helmet and a motorcycle that is quiet to begin with (I ride a Goldwing) this seems to be a non-issue, at least for me.

    I suppose without a windscreen, a quiet silky smooth engine, and dramatically reduced wid noise it must get hard on the ears after a while.

    I feel my biggest worry for hearing damage is when I turn the stereo in my helmet headset too loud….

    But some songs must be played LOUD!

  • If you are going to use them….get the molded ones they work the best for the long hauls on the Highways.

  • You really ought to look into molded ear plugs. It takes a little getting used to inserting them, but once you learn they go in quicker than the foam/rubber ons available. I’ve had molded ones by “Now Hear This” and “Big Ear”, both are an improvement over the others.

    I also work in computer rooms that are being coming noisier and noiser every day. The molded ones also double as my computer room noise dampeners also.

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