Save your hearing.

Do you wear ear protection?


The Hornet's Nest - Honda Hornet Owners Club supports the 'WEAR EARPLUGS CAMPAIGN'

It's a fact that riding motorcycles can damage your hearing.
If you ride for any period of time without hearing protection you are putting yourself at risk, because as time goes by you will eventually suffer hearing damage.
This sort of damage can be anything from a ringing in the ears - Tinnitus, or total hearing loss. Hearing damage is irrepairable - it doesn't heal, it won't get better.

And the worst bit is, hearing damage is cumulative, it builds over time, getting worse and worse. So it might just crop up in later life.

A normal ear and a damged ear. Note the loss of hair cells in the highlighted area.

As motorcyclists we are subject to many different noises. Not just raffic and engine noise, but the rush of wind and the high pitch wail as it passes through the tiny gap in your visor or top vent.
Ever seen a dog react to a dog whistle?
They can hear it, it's too high pitched for us.
But some of the noise around and inside your helmet is similar in frequency to that.

So what can you do?

Well, if you've got any sense, you're already doing it - wearing ear protection.
There are many types of ear protection...

Disposable Ear Plugs

Ever wonder why the bowl full of orange earplugs at 1 a pair in your local dealer is nearly always empty? The reason is because the majority of riders use disposable ear plugs. They offer excellent protection at a good price.

Ear canals are very much like fingerprints - no two are alike. So the best theing to do is experiment with several different brands to establish which are most comfortable. After all, if they aren't comfortable you won't wear them. You are basically going to have to give them a week or so just to get used to wearing them. Don't give in after one day.

At first you will find them strange. Some people say they feel a little off balance. The first time I wore them, I did. But after a couple of days they became second nature. Now, if I ride without them, the noise seems ridiculous.

Ear plugs are inserted by rolling the plug between two fingers to squash the foam into a thin tube, inserting up to the "bud", then holding until the foam has fully expanded.
A properly sized and inserted plug will be comfortable for a full day of riding and almost completely eliminate the "jet engine" wind roar while at the same time allowing you to hear important things like horns, close traffic and people talking.
As the plug expands in the ear after insertion you will hear the background noise suddenly disappear. Clap your hands, if you can hear anything other than a dull, muffled clap your earplugs are either improperly inserted, incorrectly sized, or need to be replaced.

Earplugs must be regularly replaced. As you wear them they become saturated with moisture, ear wax, and bacteria. Not only are used plugs unhygienic, they lose their ability to protect your ears. Many riders wash plugs and re-use them, I've always found it easier to buy in bulk and use a new pair every week, if not less.

An earplug that is too big will be very uncomfortable and the protection will be handicapped because the foam has not had the room to expand and conform into the ear canal. A plug that is too small will be comfortable but may be loose in the ear and again the protection will be reduced.

There are many different makes with different sizes and noise ratings. The mazimum protection you can expect to get has ratings of NRR 33 dB and SNR 34 dB, but you'll be looking at a large plug which may not fit smaller ears..

At the end of the day, go for a plug which you find comfortable, which is not loose. And remember, even a badly fitted plug is better than no protection at all.

You will notice that earplugs also differ in shape. The most common are shaped like a bell. You can also buy cylindrical plugs, similar to those used by people living with snorers, people who shoot, and general use like using powertools. While they are not worthless for motorcycle use, they are close. Do your ears a big favor and use these only on an emergency basis. Buy plugs that are manufactured specifically for motorcycle use.

Disposable plugs offer superior protection at an excellent price. The low cost of bulk buying from dealers or even better, places like M & P, ensures you will always have a clean, fresh pair with no excuse to not wear them.

I keep a few spare pairs in my jacket pocket and some under the seat. Oh, and don't be tempted to stuff one you dropped into the gutter into your ear, for obvious reasons.

Custom Ear Plugs

Custom ear plugs are a great option, though they are expensive. Ranging from complex plastic moulded versions to ones that are actually designed to fit YOUR ears. I choose to use disposable ear plugs because they are easy and cheap, and you don't have to worry about losing them.
Not only that, I wear a new, clean pair every few days. However, the advantages of Custom Ear protection are excellent hearing protection, long term comfort and proven fit. The disadvantages include the possibility of loss or breakage leaving you with no protection, cost, and having to go through having them made.


Hearing loss is preventable. If you ride for any length of time without ear protection you will suffer irreversible hearing damage. Whether high quality disposable ear plugs or custom-made and fitted ear plugs, consistently wearing a high quality ear plug every time you ride will ensure you won't have to go through life constantly asking people to repeat themselves, or wondering if that ringing in your ears will ever go away.

At the end of the day, go for a plug which you find comfortable and not loose. And remember, even a badly fitted plug is better than no protection at all.

For more detailed information see this useful Tinnitus FAQ page.

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