Hearing protection: earplugs


It’s time to plug the gap – at least as far as your ears are concerned. Because anyone who regularly rides a motorbike can risk damaging their hearing. So we put twelve types of earplug to the test.

Would you willingly expose yourself to several hours of infernal shrieking from a buzzsaw without wearing anything to protect your hearing? Of course you wouldn’t, because

prolonged exposure to around 100 decibels is not good for your ears. But for many people, hours of cruising along a motorway on a biking holiday without any hearing protection is apparently perfectly acceptable, despite the fact that, as far as our ears are concerned, there is little difference between a buzzsaw and cruising speeds of 130 km/h. Both of these noise sources can have long-term consequences for our hearing. Even at levels below 100 decibels, noise can damage the hearing. In the workplace, 85 dB(A) is considered to be the danger level. If you fail to protect your hearing from loud noise, the first thing you can expect to lose is the ability to hear sounds at higher frequencies. The sensory hair cells responsible for picking up these frequencies are located at the opening of the inner ear canal known as the cochlea. These cells therefore take the full brunt of excessive noise and become flattened if over-burdened. And the layer is associated with a significant part of our ability to hear speech. In order to prevent such damage, motorbike riders need to plug up. Although to do so to the exclusion of all external noise would be contrary to paragraph 23 of the German Highway Code (Other Obligations of the Driver). And of course all riders need to be aware of noises such as mechanical problems, emergency vehicle sirens or a pillion rider trying to talk to you. So in this test of twelve randomly selected earplugs, we were looking not just for noise absorption but their suitability for motorbike riding. And a not insignificant factor was comfort in the ear. Because even the best earplugs are not much use if you don’t wear them.



How MOTORRAD tested the earplugs

The samples for the test were all purchased by MOTORRAD in June 2015 at specialist shops, chemists and DIY store. The test drives for the purposes of assessing comfort and noise

absorption on the road took place on the A81 autobahn on a Harley-Davidson XL 1200 Sportster and a BMW R 1200 R and mainly within the speed range of 130 to 160 km/h. The test drivers were wearing Schuberth C3 Pro and Shoei Neotec helmets. For testing the earplugs under laboratory conditions, we used the hearing test facilities at the Stuttgart branch of hearing aid manufacturers KIND, where an audiometer in the range of 125-8000Hz was used to create an audiogram for each product.




MADE BY: Alpine Hearing Protection, 3769 AL Soesterberg/Netherlands, Price €24.99 for one pair plus one replacement earplug (price per pair €24.99). Purchased at Polo in Jüchen, Germany
FEATURES: gill structure earplugs that keep their shape. Reusable, with two interchangeable filter sets and artificial leather carrying pouch.
HANDLING: very easy to insert, ready for immediate use, relatively simple filter change, easy

to clean under running water.
COMFORT: you know they’re there but they’re not intrusive; no in-ear pressure, fit very snugly and don’t rub against helmet padding.
NOISE ABSORPTION ON THE ROAD: noticeable (with green filter) to very noticeable (with yellow filter) absorption of engine and wind noise, and continuing to perform well even at high speeds. Sirens and speech remain clearly audible – you don’t feel cut off from your surroundings.
NOISE ABSORPTION IN THE LAB: uniformly good absorption between 10 to 30dB across the frequency range with slightly increased readings at the higher

frequencies – overall eminently suitable for use on the road.


MADE BY: Alpine Hearing Protection, 3769 AL Soesterberg/Netherlands, PRICE €7.95 for five pairs (price per pair €1.59). Purchased at Hein Gericke, Stuttgart. FEATURES: cone-shaped earplugs that keep their shape. Reusable up to a point (according to the manufacturer, ‘for single or multiple use’). Come with plastic carrying case.

HANDLING: a little fiddly to insert; they have to be firmly rolled and you have to leave them in for quite a while before they become settled in position. Relatively easy to clean under running water.
COMFORT: very soft and comfortable, no in-ear pressure; you barely know they’re there, even after a long time. No rubbing against helmet padding. NOISE ABSORPTION ON THE ROAD: engine and wind noise are significantly reduced but you are not cut off completely: speech and sirens remain adequately audible.

NOISE ABSORPTION IN THE LAB: uniformly good absorption between 10 to

30dB from the middle frequency range upwards. Very low-frequency sounds are only slightly absorbed. Nonetheless these earplugs are still eminently suitable for use on the road.

Nothing to complain about here: with ease of use, comfort in the ear, good quality, with good accessories and, best of all, practical, on-the-road noise absorption for all riding environments, the Dutch company lifts the trophy.







Not appropriate for all uses but well suited to motorbike riding. Handling takes a little getting used to but these are extremely comfortable and very fairly priced.





Alpine Motosafe Earplugs PinlockEarplugs NotonGehörschutz
Hansaplast Lärmstop Ohrstöpsel HearosEarPlugs

Lux Gehörschuz stöpsel

Handling Comfort

18 17 16 18 15 20 14 19 13 15 8 7

Noise absorption (on the road)

20 19 13 14 7 5

Noise Price-performance Total absorption (lab) ratio score

28 9 92 27 8 88 20 6 74 18 8 73 10 3 48 15 2 37

Good Good Adequate Inadequate

Price per pair (€)

24.99 24.95 1.22 0.98 5.99 0.70



Max. points available 20

20 20 30 10 100

20 17 26 10 88

Very good

Mack’s Soft Foam Earplugs 15

Very good 1.00

Very good

Alpine Plug & Go Earplugs 12

19 16 23 10 80



Ohropax Color 14

19 13 19 9 74

Good 0.61

3M 1100 DS 15

20 8 16 4 63

Satisfactory 3.50

Wellnoise Silikon Blau 11

14 6 13 3 47

Adequate 1.75

Ohropax Classic 5

8 5 13 2 33

Inadequate 0.44

* 85-100 points = very good; 70-84 points = good; 55-69 points = satisfactory; 40-54 points = adequate; 0-39 points = inadequate


It hardly seems fair. The test was won by a product made specifically for motorbike riders but included products that are presumably not aimed at that group. Nonetheless, the test set out to measure ear protection in general, not just for riders. And the broad scope of the study is justified by the inclusion of such non-specialist brands as Mack’s, Ohropax Color and Hansaplast. None of these are aimed at the bike market but, with their lower price point, are nonetheless a good buy for occasional or riders or those who ride just an average amount. Serious riders should opt for the more expensive products from Alpine, which may involve a higher initial outlay but will pay for themselves over time.

By | 2018-01-28T04:29:13+00:00 February 8th, 2017|xenonOz|0 Comments

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