by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
Mack's Earplugs have been around virtually forever in motorcycle time.
The Mack's brand is manufactured by McKeon Products, Inc.
It is a family owned and operated business which operates the Mack's manufacturing plant in Warren, Michigan.
The Mack's product line can be found in virtually every pharmacy or Supermarket in the U.S.A.
They are also widely available in the U.K., and they are familiar to many motorcycle riders.
I've passed by them in the grocery aisles many times, but for some reason I hadn't considered using them for riding or for an ear plug review.
This may be caused by my ignorance that Mack's made anything other than their "Original" line of silicone ear plugs, the type most commonly found on the Supermarket displays, for some reason.
Since disposable ear plugs seem to be the perennial favorites around the webBikeWorld garage, I simply hadn't considered trying anything else.
But Mack's is famous for its silicone ear plugs and they are, in fact, the product that got the company started back in the early 1960's.
We purchase almost all of the ear plugs and everything else that is reviewed on webBikeWorld.
But just as we were about to publish the recent review of six different disposable ear plugs we received an offer from Mack's to try some of their products.
Although the Mack's ear plugs arrived too late for inclusion in that review, we've spent some time riding with them over the last few weeks and this is our report.
Since I'm the one with the weird ears, I usually get to evaluate the ear plugs.
My right ear canal is way bigger than the hole on the left side of my head, so I'm the perfect dummy (did I say that?) for fitting the various shapes and sizes of INCD's (Insertable Noise Control Devices).
I guess I've become so used to stuffing twirled-up foam ear plugs in my ears for so many years that I'm way beyond having it bother me.
But I've learned that some motorcycle riders either can not or will not use an ear plug that has to be stuffed into their cranium.
I can understand that, and although I'm the Johnny Appleseed of ear plugs, preaching the Gospel of Noise and handing out 'plugs to anyone and everyone I can, I've also seen many people struggle with trying to fit a disposable in their ear.
Many users also do not roll up the ear plug and get it correctly inserted, which can be helped by pulling up on the top of the ear with the opposite hand.
They lightly push the ear plug into the outer opening of the ear without rolling it up and letting it expand and they think that's all there is to it.
So if you don't like to wear your ear plugs down and deep, the Mack's "Original" silicone style may be just the ticket.
The silicone ear plugs feel very, uh, "organic", like they are made from some type of natural element, which they are (silicone).
Mack's probably doesn't like this analogy, but the Mack's Original silicone ear plugs look and feel very similar to Silly Putty.
The instructions call for rolling up each plug of silicone into a ball and flattening it against the ear.
The silicone ear plugs are specifically designed NOT to be inserted into the ear canal.
We found them no more difficult or easy to install than a disposable; push the silicone ball against the ear and push.
We found it easiest to sort of grab the ear lobe with the fingers as the ball is pushed and flattened against the outside of the ear canal.
Although no one else seems to have this problem, I found that I have to be careful when I push the ball of silicone against my ear.
That's because it immediately seals the ear canal and can cause undue pressure if pushed too quickly or too hard against the opening. Working it in (or on) slowly while pulling out my ear lobe works best.
Mack's Original silicone ear plugs have a 22 NRR, which is about 10 less than the disposables with the highest levels of protection.
I personally don't think the silicone style offers enough noise reduction for my taste; they sound like they're only about half as effective as the best disposables.
By the way, if you want to know how NRR is calculated, you can translate this rather scientific document entitled Method for Calculating and Using the Noise Reduction Rating -NRR (.pdf file).
It's from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Good luck.
One feature of the Mack's Originals is that the silicone is tacky, so it easily picks up dirt, hair, grit and grease.
Extra care must be taken when handling these, and although I found that they can be washed under running lukewarm water with a bit of dishwashing soap, some of the dirt particles seem to stay embedded in the silicone.
But I guess since the silicone ear plugs are not actually inserted into the ear canal itself, perhaps they can be slightly less clean than a disposable without causing a problem.
By the way, they're also claimed to be waterproof, although I'm not sure how they would stay inserted in the ear during a swim or a surf session.
The bottom line is that the Mack's Original silicone ear plugs seem to have about half the noise reduction of, for example, the Mack's Safe Sound (29 NRR) or Ultra Safe Sound (32 NRR) disposable ear plugs (see below) when riding a motorcycle.
While that's not quite enough for me, it is fine for Lori and Burn, who, now that they've tried them, prefer the silicone style over the deeply inserted disposables.
So if your averse to wearing ear plugs that have to be inserted in your ear canal, the Mack's Original's may be for you.
Comparing disposable ear plugs is difficult because the soft foam core is different for each brand, which creates variability in the way they fit, their comfort levels and noise control factors.
This means that any review of ear plugs will be subjective.
We usually try them over the course of several rides and then get together to compare notes.
Mack's offers three different disposable soft foam ear plug types, the Safe Sound (29 NRR), the Ultra Safe Sound (32 NRR) and the Safe Sound Jr. (29 NRR) for those with smaller ear canals (and children).
The Safe Sound ear plugs are similar in size and shape to the Moldex Pura-fit 6800, our benchmark ear plug. But the Mack's disposables are made from a softer, "squishy" foam that feels more "rubbery" than the Pura-fits (I told you this was subjective!).
The Mack's 'plugs roll up easily and stay rolled up long enough to get them inserted. They expand slowly, making that "squishy water" noise as they do.
You can tell when disposable ear plugs are correctly inserted, because as they expand, the ambient noise levels should dramatically decrease, and you'll know it when they "shut the world out", as I say.
As they expand, but before they expand to their maximum (so that they provide a good seal), everything should all of a sudden get really, really quiet and the birds, cars and all of the other noises should suddenly seem like they've been turned off.
The problem with my large right ear canal is that this doesn't always happen with "normal" sized ear plugs.
I've always had this problem in that ear, so I usually have to reverse the ear plug and insert it large end first, as I have to do with Mack's Safe Sound ear plugs to get them to work.
This only seems to be a problem for me and for anyone else with as big of a hole in the head as me.
But the Mack's disposables work well (with the right side reversed) and I like the softness of these ear plugs.
The Ultra Safe Sound variety offers about as much noise reduction as you're likely to find with any disposable.
Mack's makes some other products that may be of interest.
Those include Ear Seals, which are non-disposable but probably too long for use under a motorcycle helmet (we didn't try them).
Also, Mack's Dry-n-Clear, which was a lifesaver for me not too long ago when, for the first time in 40 years of surfing, I couldn't get the water out of my left ear.
Dry-n-Clear quickly dries out the excess water, but getting the drops in is a trip.
Finally, there's Mack's Lens Wipes, which come in individual packets and can be used for "cleaning glass, plastic and polycarbonate".
Not sure if I want to use these on motorcycle helmet visors (face shields) because the alcohol in the wipes may damage the coating.
I like the Mack's Safe Sound disposable ear plugs, probably not as much as my current favorite, the E-A-Rsoft Grippers, but only because of my strange right ear canal condition.
I'm not a silicone kind of guy, but if you don't like inserting a disposable ear plug far enough into your ear canal, you may want to give the Mack's silicone ear plugs a try.
|wBW Review: Mack's Ear Plugs|
|Manufacturer: Mack's Earplugs||List Price (2006): $2.49-$4.29|
|Colors: Varied||Made In: U.S.A.|
|Review Date: May 2006|
From "J.P." (September 2016): "I recently read your review of Mack's silicone ear plugs. They seem pretty good. I've not tried them but it seems the stiffer the silicone the less effective they are.
I use "Silly Putty". It is very soft, it will fill the ear canal and the outer ear. I doubt if you will ever get anything to cancel noise better. You are alone with yourself after these go in.
I use a disposable contact lens case to keep my "ear plugs" clean. Over time they seem to absorb ear wax and get softer. After a while they get so soft you can't get it all out.
Then it's time to toss them and pinch off another wad of putty.
I wouldn't recommend this to everyone put I've never been able to use rolled up inserts without having an ear ache after about an hour.
I can wear these for hours and have no discomfort because it doesn't change the shape of my ears.
Thing is once I pulled the silly putty out of my ears I found out my ear canal is not round... Not saying to recommend this but you gotta try it just once."
From "K.W.": "I first tried a pair of Mack's while I was at Americade for the first week in June and I found them to be the equal of the Moldex Rockets I have been wearing for the past 3 months.
They are a nice break from the Rockets. I find the Rockets can be a little irritating from time to time."
From Pete Benner, McKeon Products: "There were
a few benefits you missed that other cycle enthusiasts have found very beneficial.
1. They fit flush with the ear, so they fit under helmets nicely as opposed
to some foam and flanged plugs that stick out too far.
2. They aren't constantly trying to expand to their original shape like
foam earplugs. Foam plugs give many people discomfort after 20 minutes or
so. Silicone are so comfortable, they are the choice for most sleepers.
3. You don't have to remove them all the way to hear clearly.
One can simply break the airtight seal to hear more clearly and leave
the plug in the outer ear bowl. When they are ready to ride again, they
just roll their finger over the plug to seal it back up.
4. The most obvious for you, especially, and you didn't even mention it: Mack's silicone conform to the unique contours of any size ear, including your large right ear canal that you seem to have problems with.
They did, didn't they? They mold to any ear! I'd think that would've hit home with you, as they do with many."
"You may find this hard to believe, but many of our silicone wearers report getting as good or better noise protection from the silicone plugs.
There is a bit of a learning curve to applying them.
In order to get the best results in noise reduction, you want to avoid trapping air in the canal.
Do this by applying them back to front so that some of the air gets squeezed out of the canal, thus equalizing the pressure and ideally, almost creating a bit of a suction effect.
This is too difficult to describe in the directions, but most users will figure this out after a few tries. In my opinion, they do as good or better of a job of blocking noise as anything out there."