Mack's Ear Plugs
Selection of Mack's Earplugs. Top Row, L to
R, Silicone: Original "Natural" (left),
Bottom Row, L to R, Disposables: Safe Sound,
Ultra Safe Sound.
Mack's Ear Plugs Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
| Owner Comments (Below)
Mack's Earplugs have been around virtually forever in
motorcycle time. The Mack's brand is manufactured
by McKeon Products, Inc., 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. and 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
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.
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 '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
Mack's "Original" Silicone Ear Plugs
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
I guess I've become so used to stuffing twirled-up
foam '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, 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
The results? 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
By the way, if you want to know how NRR is
calculated, you can translate this rather scientific
Method for Calculating and Using the Noise Reduction
Rating -NRR (.pdf file) 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
Mack's Safe Sound Disposable Ear Plugs
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.
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
Mack's makes some other products that may be of
interest: Ear Seals, which are non-disposable but
probably too long for use under a motorcycle helmet (we
didn't try them); 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.
Review: Mack's Ear Plugs
Retail Price: $2.49 - Two pair pack (silicone).
$4.29 - 10 pair Ultra Safe Sound, Safe Sound or Safe Sound Jr.
Earplugs and Hearing
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►Your Comments and
Please send comments to
Comments are ordered from most recent to oldest.
Not all comments will be published (details
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clarity prior to publication.
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 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."
Sincerely, Pete Benner