Hearing protection: earplugs
PUT A STOP IN IT!
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.
MOTORRAD TEST WINNER:
MADE BY: Alpine Hearing Protection, 3769 AL Soesterberg/Netherlands, www.alpine.eu. 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, www.apline.eu. 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.
: VERY GOOD
PLUG & GO EARPLUGS
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
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
Mack’s Soft Foam Earplugs 15
Very good 1.00
Alpine Plug & Go Earplugs 12
19 16 23 10 80
Ohropax Color 14
19 13 19 9 74
3M 1100 DS 15
20 8 16 4 63
Wellnoise Silikon Blau 11
14 6 13 3 47
Ohropax Classic 5
8 5 13 2 33
* 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.
Do you have trouble sleeping due to urban noise, your partner’s snoring or noisy housemates? Perhaps you live in a busy social location and have to endure the sound of partygoers and bar music every single night. Whatever the noise source, it could be time for you to invest in a set of specially designed sleeping earplugs. These will ensure that you can fall asleep easily and wake up less frequently during the night so that you can get up in the morning feeling better rested. This will result in you having more energy than ever before. So, what are the other benefits to wearing earplugs when sleeping?
You Will Finally Be Able To Sleep Well:
If you have trouble sleeping, you will know that there is nothing worse than lying in bed at 2:00 am, unable to sleep, especially when you have to get up for work at 7:00 am! You can buy specially designed sleeping earplugs that are made to block out foreign and unwanted noises in a way that is both comfortable and healthy. By wearing these earplugs to bed, you should find that you are finally able to drop off to sleep easily without worrying about all the surrounding noises.
You Won’t Get Angry With Your Partner Any More:
I’m sure most of us have a partner or a close friend who snores. Someone snoring next to you is an annoyance to lots of people across the world, as it keeps them awake and grates on their nerves. It can cause exhaustion, anxiety and plain old grumpiness if not dealt with in an effective way. By now you have probably guessed what the best way to deal with the noise of someone snoring is. That’s right wear sleeping earplugs to bed! Let your partner snore as much as they like while you get the beauty sleep that you need and deserve.
You Will Wake Up Rested And Will Be Much More Productive:
If you are used to waking up tired with no energy and have to drink a litre of coffee just to come to life, then you need to invest in a set of good quality earplugs! These will let you sleep deeply and peacefully without other disturbances waking you up. So, you will wake up fully rested and filled with energy. This leads to you being much more productive and getting more done during the day. In view of this, why would anyone say no to wearing sleeping earplugs to ensure a good night’s rest??
Tinnitus is an illness related to a non-hearing medical condition. Those who suffer from this can experience ringing, hissing, buzzing, humming or whistling in their ears with no explanation as to where this noise is coming from. People can experience this to a lesser degree when they have been exposed to a loud source of sound that has caused by the hair cells in the cochlea to become damaged by the loud noise. Depending on the frequency that the sound is heard at, this will determine the level of damage to the ear and is referred to as noise induced hearing loss.
By getting into your groove at a rock concert is one potential example of how you may be exposing yourself to harmful levels of noise. To prevent this many people now choose to wear ear plugs, while still enjoying concerts. Health and safety regulations have an expected standard level for when earplugs must be worn in the workplace. When listening to music with earphones, the general rule is 60/60 which means that you should not increase your volume to over 60%, with a limit of 60 minutes per day.
What is too loud?
There are now apps available to download that will actually give you an accurate sound reading of your surroundings. An option for identifying how much is too much while you are on the go is, if you hear a ringing or a buzz after you have been exposed to noise, then this is indicative of damage to the ears, even if it is just temporary. But how can I tell it is too loud before I reach this stage?
If you have to shout to someone who is only a metre or so away, then the background noise levels are too high and are potentially damaging. This also applies it you have to speak loudly into someone’s ears to be heard or if you feel the need to continue to shout, even after you have removed yourself from the source. Common sense will alert you if you feel uncomfortable, develop a headache or if the noise makes you feel dizzy. Then move away from the situation immediately. If you can’t leave immediately then try and at the very least take a break from the noise.
If you find yourself in a situation at work where there is loud noise and you are concerned that it could negatively impact on your hearing, then you need to get in touch with the HR department to arrange for some form of ear defender to be distributed to yourself and any other co-workers exposed to the noise. With ear defenders it is vital that you wear them correctly and your ear defenders don’t remain forgotten about in your pockets! Employers have a care of duty to their staff and part of this includes protecting their workers hearing.
A noise risk assessment including task rotation, health surveillance, and sound proofing are all things that need to be considered by employers who expose their staff to loud noises. Regular checks and evaluations are essential to measure effectiveness. Workers should be educated about the risks and concerns of noise including its health impacts and how to self-manage hearing protection. This not only protects the employees hearing but also contributes to reducing workplace stress and improves employees’ mental wellbeing.
Earplugs are not the coolest addition to your outfit, but they are an important, and often overlooked, asset at concerts. If you are a regular concert-goer that opts not to wear earplugs, you are in serious risk of permanently damaging your hearing. In fact, the most common cause of hearing loss is noise-induced and can occur from just a single event – such as a concert. The good news is that there are fantastic products on the market that can help avoid any hearing loss brought about by loud concerts.
How Your Hearing Works
Your hearing relies on tiny, delicate hair cells within your inner ear that carries energy from sounds to your brain. Loud noises blast and tear these hairs which can cause permanent damage, which in turn leads to hearing loss.
A good rule of thumb to work by is this – if you cannot hear the person next to you talking from an arm’s length, then your hair cells are being damaged. It is at this stage that you should don your earplugs to avoid the nasty issue of hearing loss or tinnitus.
Concerts Are Loud. Really Loud.
A conversation between two people sits at around 65 decibels. After around 85 decibels, you are at serious risk of damaging your hearing permanently. A motorcycle engine revving sits at around 100 decibels, and at 110 decibels you can experience loss of hearing after only two minutes. A loud concert can range anywhere from 100 to 120 decibels, with heavy rock band Manowar claiming the title of loudest concert ever, at a recorded level of 129 decibels.
What Type Of Earplugs To Look For
It is perfectly normal to experience temporary pain or ringing in the ears following a loud concert. However, if you regularly attend live events it is important that you protect your hearing sufficiently. More to the point, you also want to hear the music going on, so make sure you are getting the right type of ear plug. A standard foam ear plug will make the music softer, which is great for your ears. However, it will also muffle the sound and dampen your concert experience.
High fidelity earplugs are a perfect balance of protection and quality to make sure you can enjoy live music and performances, burden-free. High fidelity earplugs work by creating a flat attenuation in the sound, essentially turning down the sound of the music but not the quality.
Would you like any more technical information on these products? Check these out.
Alpine’s Muffy products are designed to protect the hearing of young children. Take a quick look at the product specification, choose your colour and help your children.
If you spot this car and can safely make yourself known, we will send you a free set of ear plugs of your choice! Offer available until 31 August 2016.