Mark was bragging in an Opinion column a couple of months ago about how he’s been riding motorcycles without ear protection until very recently and his hearing is fine. I on the other hand, have been wearing ear protection for the last fifteen years of riding yet still suffer from hearing loss. It’s likely thanks to a common hereditary trait and my attendance at more than a few rock concerts in my day rather than riding. Nevertheless, I’ve trying to reduce or prevent any further damage by wearing ear protection whenever I attend a live concert or ride a motorcycle.
Much like Mark, I started off with the cheap foam ones you buy at the pharmacy. The main benefits are that they are cheap and easy to replace if you lose them, however they lose their elasticity quickly and often pop out of your ears. They also collect dirt and get gross if you don’t replace them often.
I bit the bullet and got fitted for a pair of custom earplugs at a motorcycle show a few years back. Unfortunately, they are big and bulky, so they too pop out of my ears every time I take off my helmet. The material is also rather hard, so my ears are left sore when I wear them all day. They arrived in a large plastic case that is too big to fit in the front pocket of my pants without raising some eyebrows. They also did not come cheap.
Sena makes the Momentum Noise Control Helmet that uses noise cancellation technology. While it does offer additional functionality, it will set you back about $550 USD. I prefer being out of reach while I’m riding and I tend to change out my helmets frequently, so that’s not a great solution for me either.
Mark tried out a pair sent to him by a company called Vibes which he seems to really like. They stayed in his ears and made a significant difference to the level of noise pollution he experienced while riding. No word on whether they blocked out the voices in his head though.
I was then offered up a couple options of ear protection from a company called Loop, so I jumped at the chance in hopes of finding a long-term solution for myself. Thankfully, it seems that I was in luck. The two versions they sent were Loop Quiet and Loop Experience. They also offer a more sophisticated (and slightly more expensive) version called Experience Pro, which was designed with musicians in mind as it further reduces high and low frequencies while optimizing the sound that does get through.
Outfitted in Essence Black (Magic Mint, Soul Bordeaux, Zen White, Calm Blue and Hush Pink are also available), the Quiet variety of these plugs reduces sound up to 30 dB. Putting them in, you can immediately notice a difference. You can still hear sirens and horns, so they are safe to ride with but dull the intensity of engine and wind noise substantially. Made from soft silicone, they are soft enough to keep in comfortably all day and/or night. They’ve become my go-to for when I’m riding alone, or when I’m sleeping somewhere with noisy people around like at a cottage or on a camping trip. Each box comes with three sizes of silicone ear tips to ensure proper fit, along with a small plastic carrying case. They retail for $23.20 CDN.
This model was designed to reduce noise by 20 dB, but not block it out completely. The Experience comes with the option of silicon and plastic ear tips (in small, medium and large) and has a plastic acoustic channel meant to imitate the shape of your ear canal. It also makes them easy to pop in and out. They allow sound to come through but reduces its volume, so you are still able to communicate with fellow riders at stoplights or hear the music when you attend a concert. Although, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be doing that for a while. They come with a small zippered pouch to keep them in when you’re not wearing them. Available in Rose Gold, Midnight Black, Swinging Silver and Glorious Gold (which I received), they retail for $38.80 Canadian.
Both arrived in classy, tasteful packaging with sizing options and small, subtle carrying containers. Many people avoid wearing ear protection because earplugs can be bulky, annoying, unattractive or expensive. The Loop Experience and Quiet seem to solve all of these issues in two different ways. Fitment and comfort are great for both models and they aren’t as expensive or bulky as other options. I keep both pairs in my riding jacket and choose which set I wear depending if I’m riding with friends or solo.