Silencio Ear Plugs Review
by Rick K. for webBikeWorld.com
The Silencio Soft Foam brand is firmer than other earplugs and hard to fit in the ear canal due to its hexagonal shape.
The Silencio Red-E-Fit is soft, comfortable and performs well but is relatively expensive.
The Silencio Silent Partner is reusable (made from silicone) but hard to insert and doesn't perform as well for motorcycle riding as some disposable brands.
I can tell you from personal experience that tinnitus and hearing loss is a serious affliction, and my advice is to wear correctly fitted earplugs.
We've reviewed many different types of earplugs on webBikeWorld, always searching for the perfect example. It's apparent that most earplug manufacturers focus on certain market niches, but few focus on motorcycling.
For example, Hearos earplugs seem to be marketed primarily to musicians. The Hearos brand is sold through many music retailers, and we purchased ours for the recent webBikeWorld Hearos review at a music store.
Other brands focus their marketing efforts at manufacturing plants and machine shops, which can have very noisy environments. Sometimes even the packaging is optimized for use on the shop floor.
Silencio, on the other hand, seems to focus most of their marketing effort on practitioners of shooting sports. The brand is often found on the counters of gun shops, and their products seem to be only available through shooting sports related websites.
Silencio directs customers to the Shotgun Sports website to purchase earplugs, but we were unable to find any reference to Silencio products for sale on that site, nor could we find any type of search capability to determine if earplugs are for sale on the Shotgun Sports website.
We ended up purchasing our assortment of Silencio earplugs from Bass Pro Shops at what we consider to be an exorbitant price. The Silencio Disposable Soft Foam earplugs cost $3.99 for a package of 6 pair, or $0.665 per pair.
The Silencio Red-E-Fit disposable earplugs cost $4.99 for a package of 6 pair, or $0.83 per pair, and the Silencio Silent Partner non-disposable (aka reusable) earplugs cost $6.99 for a single pair.
We can sometimes find our favorite earplug, the Moldex PuraFit 6800, in boxes of 200 pair for as low as $20.00 per box (all prices not including shipping). That's $0.10 a pair, which is very reasonable for what we think is (so far) one of the best performing all-around disposable earplugs available for use when riding motorcycles.
Silencio also manufacturers ear muffs and other types of ear protection, and these products are also focused on the shooting sports. Although our original intention was to try the Silencio Silent Partner reusable earplugs, we decided to give their disposables a try also. The earplugs were distributed among the crew, and this review is a compilation of everyone's comments.
These earplugs have an obviously different configuration than any other disposables we've used. They have a hexagonal shape and a claimed NRR of 29.
There's no explanation that we could find on the Silencio website to explain the advantages or disadvantages of the hexagonal shape; we can only guess that it's used either for marketing purposes or because of some manufacturing process that makes this shape easier to produce.
The typical rounded cone shape of most disposables (like the Silencio Red-E-Fit shown in the photo below) is produced in a mold. It's possible that the hexagonal shape is manufacturing by extruding the material through a die and then cutting it to length. Although the extrusion process could also work for a cylindrically shaped earplug, so it's hard to tell what's behind the hexagonal strategy.
Earplugs are hard to describe in a product review. There are only a few differentiators among this otherwise commodity item (i.e., purchased solely on price). Disposable earplugs are all roughly the same length (20 mm) and the same diameter (about 10-12 mm).
The foam used in disposables seems to fall into one of two categories: either it's soft and rubbery version or firm. Softer foam that is also rubbery feeling usually rolls up into a nice, narrow cylinder, making them easier to insert into the ear canal. But if the foam is too soft or too rubbery, the earplug can be too hard to insert unless they're perfectly centered in the ear canal.
If the manufacturer's claims for Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) are accepted, then we're only left with subjective differentiators. Earplugs must decrease the ambient noise level, or they're not useful. They must also be comfortable to wear. And finally, they must be easy to insert. Low price doesn't hurt either...
The Silencio Disposable Soft Foam Earplugs are made from what feels like a firmer material than found in either Silencio's Red-E-Fit, the Moldex PuraFit 6800, or the Hearos. The foam used in the Silencio Disposable Soft Foam earplugs doesn't seem to compress as easily as the softer earplugs either.
Our general opinion is that the hexagonal shape produces an earplug that is relatively difficult to compress and insert into the ear, and we found that the denser foam does not feel as comfortable as softer brands, for example, the Silencio Red-E-Fit.
The Disposable Soft Foam earplugs also don't seem to expand large enough to fit the larger sized ear canals either, and finally, they seemed to let in noticeably more noise. The manufacturer rates them with a 29 NRR.
These earplugs are very similar in size and shape to the Super Hearos and the Moldex PuraFit 6800 brands.
They're conventional in length and diameter, but the foam used in this earplug is very soft.
They roll up into a nice cylinder and are relatively easy to insert, although we found that they are so soft that they can be relatively difficult to insert in some ear shapes. The NRR is 32, which is comparable to the highest rated disposable earplugs.
However, there's no particular distinguishing characteristic of the Red-E-Fit earplugs. Our opinion is that their performance is very similar to the Moldex PuraFit 6800 or the Hearos.
Since the Silencios are comparatively expensive, they may only be practical for motorcyclists if no other suitable (and less expensive) earplug is available.
Silencio also makes the "Silent Partner" non-disposable earplug. Although most disposables are designed for single use only, we've found that it is possible to use a disposable 2-3 times if they're treated with care.
But the foam used in disposable earplugs is an environmental nightmare, making a reusable earplug an interesting alternative. In theory, a reusable earplug could also cost less in the long run, depending upon how long it lasted.
So it would be nice to find a reusable earplug that works well for motorcycling, and we're always on the lookout for an example that really works, making the Silent Partner an intriguing prospect.
Silencio claims that the Silent Partner is made from silicone with a hypoallergenic skin. The 'plugs have a "squishy" feeling, and they can be extruded into a roughly cylindrical shape by rolling them between the fingers.
Their "at rest" length is approximately 25 mm (measuring the dark blue body only), but they can be rolled out to 45 mm or longer. The silicone filling is very soft, so rolling them out to that length makes them virtually impossible to insert; there just isn't enough longitudinal stiffness to get them into the ear canal, in our opinion.
When rolled to a smaller length, they're still difficult to insert, and they don't seem to expand as well as a good disposable. The Silent Partners have a tube attached to the wide end of the body, but Silencio's website doesn't explain the purpose of the tube.
It could be a device to help equalize air pressure, similar to the Heartech FliteMate (see the wBW review), or maybe it's simply a "handle" to grasp to remove the earplug. We found that the tube can interfere with a helmet liner, depending upon the shape of the rider's head, ears and liner.
Several reviewers found that the Silent Partner earplugs offered very little noise blocking when riding a motorcycle and at least one rider told us that he noticed no difference at all with these plugs inserted.
Silencio lists a 29 NRR for the Silent Partner, but we were not impressed with their noise blocking capabilities and almost every disposable we've ever tried seemed to work better at reducing noise.
Our opinion is that earplugs with equal or greater performance can be found elsewhere for less cost than this selection of Silencio earplugs. The Red-E-Fit seems equal in comfort and performance to some of our favorites, but can also cost up to four times more per pair than the competition. We don't feel that the Silent Partner is suitable for use with a motorcycle helmet.
Master Listing of All wBW Motorcycle Product Reviews
|wBW Review: Silencio Ear Plugs|
|Manufacturer: Silencio||List Price (2004): $3.99 for 6 pair Disposable; $4.99 for 6 pair Red-E-Fit; $6.99 pair of Silent Partner (reusable).|
|Review Date: August 2004||Made In: U.S.A.|
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From "J.H." (9/09): "Some comments about the Silent Partner earplugs (review). North Safety manufactures earplugs having the same name. From the photo on your review page, the North Safety Silent Partner earplugs look identical to the ones that your review says are manufactured by Silencio. They look the same, but the NRRs are different.
The North Safety brand has an NRR of 25, whereas your review says Silencio's
NRR is 29. Also the packaging seems to be different. If you want to see
what I mean by the plugs looking identical, a photo of the North Safety
plugs is (here).
Because both plugs have the same name (Silent Partner), and because they look the same, some readers of your review may confuse one with the other, which is why I am responding to the review.
I have been using the North Safety Silent Partner earplugs for several years. These earplugs are the only ones that have helped me to block out noise. I tried more than 40 different brands of earplugs before I found Silent Partner. They are expensive, but they last several months, so I consider them to be cost-effective. Even so, I am always looking for a place where I can buy them for less, and it was during today's search that I found your review.
Because both brands of plugs look the same, the correct insertion technique would also be the same: Mold the plug into a cylindrical shape. Then while stretching out the outer edge of the ear with one hand, insert the plug with the other hand. After the plug first gets into the ear, hold the plug down for about 10 seconds, to give it a chance to expand into the ear."
From "M.C." (7/09): "I've been using Silencio Silent Partners almost exclusively for about 10 years and, on those occasions when I've had to find a substitute, have found no other earplug that works nearly as well for me.
In fact, the noise reduction is so dramatic I suspect that if a user
notices little or no noise reduction they're probably not inserting them
properly. In my experience, they're the most effective earplugs I've used
(although I'll admit that people I've recommended them to have been split
in their enthusiasm.)
When I wear them in a noisy environment, covering and uncovering my ears with my hands has little impact on the perceived noise levels, which I take as an indication that things are working well. They're rather stiff when new but become softer with use. I know it's a little disgusting, but I moisten them with saliva before inserting and they work just fine.
Working with noisy yard equipment, they do a better job than my bulky
earmuffs, just not as convenient. My ear canals are two different sizes
and most disposables are too small for one of my ears. The Silent Partners
fit both ears without problems. They last a long, long time and are easily
cleaned with soap and water. My biggest problem is finding them. My local
gun store stopped carrying them and I've had to rely on mail order.
I'm surprised at your confusion about the orange tube at the outside end of the earplugs: it's a handle, and a useful one at that. I recently had to use a pair of Leatherman pliers to extract a foam earplug that another rider had pushed to far into his ear; he couldn't grasp it with his fingers to pull it out. That's not a problem I've had with the Silent Partners.
By the way, I've just recently found your website. My congratulations on a job very well done."
From "R.P." (7/09): "I have used these for about two years now, and of the ear protectors I have tried, I find these to be very good.
When you did your review on them you state that they are hard to insert
into the ear and you're right. I put a little, very little, hand cream on
them when I have squished them to their smallest and then twist them into
my ear. Doing it this way lets them go farther into the ear and then they
perform as they were meant to.
I do shoot a little and have tried to find a good ear protector for some time, when I found Silencio Silent Partner at a local gun shop I thought I would give them a try and was pleased with the performance of these. I also found that on a 12 hour bike trip that my inner ear was not sore and that made me a believer in the product."
From "B.D.M.": "I have been using the hexagonal soft earplugs as described in the article. The ones I get are in a package containing 60 pair. The 60 pair package or smaller amounts in a plastic box can be purchased at Home Depot, a home remodeling store.
The package I get has Safety Works as the Brand name. The could be the supplier for Silencio or maybe not. The 60 pair pack cost $10.
As far as how they are made, a foam sheet with paper on one side is cut with a die that makes all the plugs in one stroke. I've been using these for four years 40 hours a week at work and when I ride. In all the years since foam plugs have been available I have used every type I have seen. These are what works best for me."