Motorcycle Ear Plugs
2009 Motorcycle Non-Disposable Ear Plug Review
by Glenn W. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
Alpine MotoSafe Protection
WindTamer Motorcyclist Ear
Perfect Fit Noise Reduction
Blockade Noise Isolating
It's been a while since the last ear plug review was published
on webBikeWorld, so I thought it might be time for another.
I had a new batch of non-disposable ear plugs that I've been
trying out over the last several weeks, and I offered to write
an article that would take a quick look at some of these new
and different ear plug styles.
The importance of ear plugs for motorcycle riding has been
covered ad infinitum on webBikeWorld, so I won't get into it
again here, other than to say that motorcycle riding is a very
noisy sport and it's absolutely crucial to protect your hearing.
Once it's lost, it's lost for good. So protecting your hearing
(and your eyesight) is essential. More on this on the webBikeWorld
Helmet Noise page and the
Ear Plugs page; also
be sure to read the various ear plug reviews, listed in the
Like everyone else I've met who are involved in the webBikeWorld
reviews, I always wear ear plugs when riding. We literally have
dozens of boxes of ear plugs of all different shapes and sizes
that we can choose from. But most riders find a favorite type
and brand that fits well and is comfortable.
The definite consensus here is that the high-quality disposable
ear plugs with high Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) of 30 or more
are the favorites and, dare I say it, overall these type are
the best we have found at reducing noise -- when they fit correctly.
We have tried many, many different types of ear plugs and
so far none of the non-disposable, or what I sometimes call
semi-permanent types come anywhere close to the noise protection
(i.e., attenuation) that is provided by the best of the disposables.
Favorite disposable ear plugs used frequently here include
the Moldex Pura-Fit 6800 (the all-time favorite and the benchmark
used for this article); Silencio ear plugs; Hearos; EAR E-A-Rsoft
Grippers and others (all reviewed via the links in the right-hand
By the way, the uncorded EAR E-A-Rsoft Grippers are unfortunately
no longer made; Rick bought a case of 4 boxes some time ago
and when they're gone, that's the end of a really fantastic
ear plug. What a shame! But, I suppose one could buy the
corded Grippers and cut the cords off. I have not tried this
I'm not sure if there will be another disposable ear plug
review on webBikeWorld this year, but in the meantime, I have
this batch of unusual ear plugs that I purchased recently, and
I wanted to see if any of these non-disposable ear plug styles
have improved. A couple of us have tried this type on the past
but haven't really found one that compares well to the disposables.
There was no particular strategy to my purchases; I just
searched around and bought a few different types. I also bought
an at-home, do-it-yourself ear plug molding kit that I intend
on using, and I'll report back on that. It's a bit fussy so
I just haven't taken the time yet to mix the compound and take
my ear impressions, then send away the package to get the ear
plugs molded. It's kind of a hassle, but one of these days I'll
get to it.
Now before I get started on the reviews -- and note these
are just a quick take on each particular type -- I'll steal
my own thunder here and say that none of these non-disposable
ear plugs come anywhere close to the noise protection or attenuation
that I desire. That's just my opinion on it; I'm coming to the
conclusion that the semi-permanent type ear plugs just don't
cut it when it comes to noise reduction.
And besides, most of them are uncomfortable for me. They
may work for some people, but I haven't found a pair of non-disposable
ear plugs yet that both reduces noise to the levels comparable
to the best of the disposables and are as comfortable either.
Plus, the non-disposable ear plugs must be cleaned often.
I think it's much better to have a few pairs of disposables
when on a trip, so if one pair gets dirty, another clean pair
is readily available. Remember to dispose of these carefully,
or at least don't throw them on the side of the road!
And, it's too easy to lose a pair of ear plugs or drop them
on the ground, so depending upon a single pair of non-disposables
can be a problem. And finally, they're expensive. Other than
that, they're fine!
The non-disposable ear plugs I'm reviewing here include the
Alpine MotoSafe Hearing Protection System; Skull Screws (by
the makers of Hearos); the WindTamer Motorcyclist Ear Plugs;
and something a little different, the Blockade High Fidelity
Noise Isolation Earbuds, which also act as speakers.
Here are some product photos:
Blockade Noise Isolating Earbud Speakers and MotoSafe Hearing
Protection System (L).
Perfect Fit Ear Plug Mold Kit (R).
Skull Screws (L). WindTamer Motorcycle Ear Plugs (R).
► Alpine MotoSafe
Hearing Protection System
The Alpine MotoSafe ear plugs were suggested by a few of
our European visitors. MotoSafe ear plugs are made by Alpine
International BV (aka Alpine Hearing Protection) in The Netherlands.
They make several types of ear plugs, each labeled for different
activities, but they all look similar. These are the "Professional
Driver's" ear plugs.
Their distinguishing feature is a removable and replaceable
central "wind noise" filter insert, seen as the yellow
and green parts above. The MotoSafe ear plugs are supposed to
allow the wearer to hear ambient noises, while they "guarantee
The MotoSafe package includes the single set of ear plugs
shown above, along with the two different noise filters. The
green filter offers "medium" protection, while the
yellow filter is supposed to provide "high" protection.
The package also includes a small tube that can be placed over
the end of the ear plug stem to insert it or remove it from
the ear. A small red textile case is also included, which can
be used to store the ear plugs and parts.
The double cups on the MotoSafe plugs
just don't fit snugly into my ears. It's like they're too short
and too rounded to grip inside my ear canal. So it was very
difficult to keep them in my ears.
As with most ear plugs, the best way to insert them is to
reach around the back of the head with the opposite hand and
pull the ear up and back to stretch open the ear canal while
the ear plug is inserted. Once the ear plug is in, the ear canal
sort of tightens up over the ear plug.
But the MotoSafe ear plugs don't feel secure in my ears.
That may be one of the reasons why they just didn't perform
for me. I'd say they only reduced the noise about half of what
a good foam disposable ear plug is capable of.
The NRR of the MotoSafe ear plugs isn't clear to me; there's
no one single number on the package. But neither the yellow
nor the green noise filters seemed to do very much. I can hear
too much wind noise inside a full-face helmet. So I can't really
recommend these. The price seems high also; it's pretty easy
to buy an entire box of 200 pairs of, say, Moldex Pura-Fit 6800
or other nice foam disposable ear plugs for that amount, and
they'd probably last as long or longer than the Alpine MotoSafe
ear plugs anyway, which are difficult to keep track of and easy
to lose or misplace.
Price: $24.95 Manufacturer:
Protection Made In: Netherlands (unconfirmed)
Motorcyclists' Ear Plugs
WindTamer Motorcyclist's [sic] Ear Plugs are another type
of semi-permanent silicone ear plug. These have 6 cones
or circles designed to grip the inside of the ear canal.
There's some type of small insert in the center; it can just
be seen in the WindTamer ear plug on the right in the photo
above, just under the large cup. This is a Hock's Noise Braker
Acoustic Damping Filter, which is supposed to "use the
laws of physics and the principle of resonant decay" to "reduce
all sound approximately to the volume of normal speech",
according to the insert in the package.
The entire body of the plug seems relatively soft and comfortable,
and the 6 cones do grip the ear canal much better than the Alpine
MotoSafe ear plugs. But be careful -- the WindTamer ear plugs
are about 30% longer than the MotoSafe ear plugs, and it seems
relatively easy to insert the WindTamer ear plugs too far, to
a point where it can cause some pain. In fact, my ear canal
hurt every time I used these, and I still hurt after I took
WindTamer ear plugs are relatively easy to find for sale
at various motorcycle retailers.
Sorry -- these just don't seem to do
the job any better than the MotoSafe ear plugs. I can hear too
much wind noise inside the helmet and they seem to provide only
about 1/2 the noise reduction of the benchmark Moldex Pura-Fit
6800 disposable ear plugs. That, combined with the uncomfortable
pain I feel, makes these a non-starter.
I couldn't find any manufacturer's claims on NRR for these.
Price: $9.95 Manufacturer:
TM Manufacturing, Inc., but unclear who actually makes these
and I can't find a website. Made In: Unknown
Skull Screws by Hearos are apparently supposed to be making
ear plugs "cool". I've seen them in a few H-D shops
and other cruiser locations. Notice the photo above -- the ear
plug body is actually shaped as a screw, and the holder that
comes out the end looks like a bolt.
So the idea is that when these are "screwed" into
your ears, the "bolt" hangs out the side and you look
like Frankenstein. They come as one pair in the small plastic
case shown above.
The problem is that the body of the ear plug seems too soft.
It looks like disposable foam ear plug material, but it feels
sort of like soft rubber; they're supposed to be designed to
make it unnecessary to roll them up before inserting them in
the ear. Also, that "bolt" that runs up the center
is made from hard plastic.
I can feel it under the softer rubber, and the end of the
bolt sticks out too far, so it touches the liner of some helmets
and dislodges the ear plug as I pull on the helmet (full-face).
Also, these are long and feel hard and they are uncomfortable
with that center plastic "bolt", so I feel pain when
wearing them. Perhaps these are designed for open-face cruiser
If the ear plugs are not inserted correctly and if a part
of the ear plug touches the helmet liner, we have found that
more noise can be transmitted to the rider than wearing no ear
plugs at all.
The manufacturer rates these as an
NRR of 30, and I'd say they seem to be transmit about 1/3 more
noise than a properly inserted pair of Moldex Pura-fit 6800
ear plugs. This is mostly due to the fact that I can't quite
get the Skull Screws to seat correctly; the rubber seems almost
too pliable. The bottom line is that they just don't seem to
work all that well and may have more style than substance --
if screws coming out of your ear can be considered stylish.
Price: $5.49/pair Manufacturer:
which is Aero Technologies (Hearos). Made In: U.S.A.
Blockade Noise Isolating Earbuds
Here's my separate
Blockade Noise Isolating
Earbuds review. This was moved to its own page rather than
include it with the others, because these also function as acceptable
speakers. Believe it or not, these actually seem to work better
than the other non-disposable ear plugs reviewed here.
► Perfect Fit
Braker Vented Custom Noise Reduction Ear Plugs
Training Videos, Clothing and More at
wBW Amazon.com Store!
I had planned on including the Perfect-Fit Breaker-Vented Custom
Noise Reduction ear plugs in this survey of non-disposable ear
plugs, but I just haven't been able to make the molds yet. So
I thought I would include a photo anyway.
This kit was purchased from the Earplug Superstore; it's
expensive at $129.95. As you can see, it looks a bit complicated.
The product is mixed together and a mold must be taken of the
ear canal, then sent away in the included box to get the permanent
ear plugs made. I haven't worked up the ambition to do this
Although I'm interested in trying these, the problem here
will be keeping them clean and not losing them. Also, the manufacturer
specifically does not list an NRR for these, which is curious.
There are many types of custom ear plugs available; these
are the Perfect-Fit Breaker-Vented Custom Noise Reduction ear
plugs, made with a "Hock's Noise Braker installed that
lets the inner ear breathe and lets the wearer hear normal speech".
The company claims that "the Noise Braker acts to prevent
hearing damage from extremely loud noises including gunfire,
nail guns, concert music, wind noise on motorcycles and many
noises commonly encountered in manufacturing environments".
I just haven't experienced anywhere
near the noise reduction I feel is safe with any of these non-disposable
ear plug types. I I suppose something is better than nothing,
but I'd much rather use a good disposable ear plug like the
Moldex Pura-Fit 6800 or the EAR Grippers with an NRR of 32,
both of which I think are much more comfortable and offer better
and safer noise reduction.
Review Date: May 2009
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►Your Comments and Feedback
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
Comments may be edited for clarity prior to publication.
From "M.F." (11/09): "I
am a psychotherapist and an ex-music teacher so my hearing has
always been important to me. Thanks for emphasizing this important
little equipment item.
I think that the reviewer's main
problem with these non-disposables comes down to fit. As with
other safety equipment, if they don't fit well they will be
uncomfortable, less effective, and less likely to be worn. Certainly,
lack of a snug fit will negatively affect the amount of noise
I have found that the Hocks Noise Brakers
work well for me, but not right out of the box. When I first
got them they stuck out a little too far inside the helmet,
so I cut down the stem a bit. After rummaging through the garage
for a pair of needle nose pliers to help me get them out of
my ears (oops), I ordered another pair. This time I cut off
the smallest flange and they work perfectly."
From "P.O." (5/09): "I
used the Alpine ear plugs several times. While they worked OK
for me (but then, I’m 64 and surely have some hearing loss already),
the problem I found with them is that when inserted deep enough
to work well, they were then so far in and firmly planted that
it proved very difficult to remove them by myself.
I have since gone to Etymotics’ hearing protectors, which
must have a similar system to pad the volume down about 20 dB
while preserving the normal frequency response one usually hears.
The Etymotics protrude slightly farther than the Alpines, allowing
both more control when inserting them and making it much easier
to remove them.
I just purchased another three pair from Amazon at about
$9-11 per pair, and plan to give a pair each to my daughter
and her fiancée to bring to rock concerts, as one can still
hear the music just fine, it’s just quieter with the Etymotics
From "D.C." (5/09): "Like
you I tried several disposable style ear plugs. While most were
comfortable I could never get them to stay in correctly and
they usually came out a bit every time I put on my helmet. I
was at a Cycle World show and decided to buy permanent custom
ear plugs from Big Ear. They work great and seem to reduce the
ambient noise better than the foam ear plugs. They cost around
$70 but well worth it. I would highly recommend them to anyone
From "B.G." (5/09): "Since
you reviewed the Perfect Fit kit at $129, I would like to mention
custom made earplugs from an audiologist.
I've purchased 3 pairs total in 6 years and love them. Noise
rating is 30Db, and they cost me $50/pair. You do have to be
careful about not losing them, but I find that getting them
in the really bright orange color helps when you do drop them.
Since they're custom made, the fit is very comfortable and
I can insert them in about 1 second per ear - no rolling foam
between my greasy fingers.
I buy mine from someone who has a booth at a motorcycle show,
but just about any audiologist can make them."
From "W.J." (5/09): "In
regards to the comment (from W.W. below) that disposable plugs
can be reused, I strongly suggest that as a bad idea. While
I use mine for about a week on my work commute, which comes
out to about 10 times, they are noticeably degraded at the end
of the week. This makes them both harder to insert properly
and also noticeably reduces their effectiveness.
Also, many disposable ear plugs are constructed of open cell
foam, which means that they tend to harbor and grow bacteria
over time. The foam cannot be sanitized by washing because you
cannot clean all those pores out. I personally don't think it
is worth the risk and I think it is very bad advice when the
whole object is protecting your hearing."
From "W.W." (5/09): "Environmentally,
disposable earplugs are pretty bad for the environment. You
can wash them and reuse them. I found out by reusing a couple
plugs that I found in pockets of pants that had gone through
the washer. They work just fine."