Don’t worry, I am still writing about motorcycle riding and not taking a side trip to discuss the 80s’ synthpop group “Art of Noise”. :-)
I have always seen motorcycle riders wearing earplugs. For a long time I attributed it to loud exhaust systems, but the real reason to wear ear plugs on the motorcycle is to block out the wind noise.
A good road helmet can be really quiet while adventure and off-road helmets are way much noisier thanks to the design which did not keep the low noise levels and aerodynamics as a priority.
Some research revealed a set of ear plugs being promising, which was narrowed further down due to the very limited selection available on a reasonable price on New Zealand. I am not questioning the superiority of some custom moulded earplugs but the $200+ price for a pair seems excessive even with built in earphones.
After a visit to the local motorcycle shops and the DIY stores nearby, I ended up with three sets of ear plugs.
- Moldex pocket pack
- 3M Tekk 25 dB corded
- DeWalt 33 dB corded
The Moldex is the cheapest in the line-up. $2 for the two pairs in the carry case. These foam plugs does not have any rating on the package. I found the noise reduction performance below my expectations and the foam a tad too hard for me.
Experts recommends not to be exposed to noise louder than 85-90 dB for an extended period of time. Considering the average motorcycle muffler sound being around 90-100dB plus the wind noise, depending on the helmet, I was looking for at least 20-30 dB noise reduction rate (NRR) to stay on the safe side.
The 3M earplugs showing a 25 dB NRR on the packaging, but it was also bearing a sticker saying it meets only 18 dB by New Zealand standards. Since I do not know what is the NZ standard in details and how it is applied on earplugs, I took the 25dB with a pinch of salt and bought this pair. While I did not like the material and the performance of the Moldex ear plugs, it is absolutely subjective and can be questioned, but the 3M is a total failure for me, not suitable for motorcycle riding. It is way too hard and the core is sticking out too much from the ear, which made it impossible for me to wear under the helmet. It was impossible to insert or take it out from my ear without causing pain. Since the 3M plugs failed at the very first steps of the test, I cannot report on how it is reducing noise. $6.90 was wasted (for one pair), and with this pricing the 3M is the most expensive participant in the test.
The DeWalt earplugs are cost the same as the 3M but you will get two pairs and a carry case. These plugs are made from a very soft memory foam which gives a high level of comfort. I cannot complain about any discomfort after wearing these for an extended period of time. The advertised 33 dB NRR did sound correct by my subjective judgement. It made the “high speed” ride in the off-road helmet pleasant. It took a bit of time to get used to the less engine/road noise but I could adjust quickly. On the other side, the gravel ride was way less enjoyable with the ear plugs. On longer gravel rides, I will take out these ear plugs since there is not much wind/engine noise around 50-60 km/h and the feedback on the ride, in the form of the noise from the motorcycle, the tyres and the road, is important for me. Another plus for me is the plastic cord connecting the ear plugs. It gives confidence to me to push in the plugs far as I can into the ear canal for maximal performance without the fear of not being able to get it out again without medical help. The cord also protecting these ear plugs from being easily lost or the need to stuff it into pockets with questionable cleanness when you stop for a short break or a pit stop for petrol.
As the result of this limited and very subjective test, I can recommends the “RADIANS DeWalt DPG65 BELL SHAPE CORDED DISPOSABLE FOAM EARPLUGS” for motorcycle riding.