Motorcyclists Should Absolutely Wear Earplugs

Protect your hearing

Some of our most important gear comes in the smallest package.Jeff Allen

Riders suffer disproportionately from hearing loss and tinnitus—that annoying ringing in the ears. As speeds increase, so do the decibel levels inside your lid. Never mind the roar of your engine, wind-tunnel testing has measured the racket of wind noise alone at over 100 decibels, well past damaging levels.

While the benefits of ear protection are obvious, their legality remains an issue, with some states and municipalities legislating—and actively enforcing—codes that prohibit earplugs and headphones while driving. It’s a maddeningly moving target for a safety product we consider essential.

We want to hear the intake racket of our machines well into old age, so our earplugs do thousands of miles every year. Naturally, we’ve settled on a few favorites.

The most expensive are $20 custom moldable Decibullz (1), which are soaked in hot water, then squished into your ear. They're remoldable to get that perfect fit. Radians (2) start as a pair of putties that you mash together, shove in your ears, and let cure. They're just under $10. Cheap, for a reusable—though slightly gross-looking—set of custom plugs. Waheed's favorites are 11-cent Howard Leight Laser Lites (3). Hi-vis colors make them easy to find, and closed-cell foam keeps them cleanish. 3M E-A-R Classics (4) are similarly cheap, and their effectiveness has rekindled my love of these old-school earplugs. Hearos High Fidelity earplugs (5) ($10) use clever engineering to take the edge off noise while keeping important sounds clear, but the tip can prod helmet liners, introducing more sound and adding discomfort.

Just because we agree all riders should wear earplugs, it doesn’t mean we can’t argue about which ones.