I don’t know if it was a misspent youth listening to Led Zeppelin too loudly or the years I rode without any hearing protection, but when I couldn’t hear or understand what my two-year old granddaughter was saying, I had to bite the bullet and get a pair of hearing aids. Regardless of the reason, I’ve come to appreciate the value of my hearing and that the real enemy to a biker’s hearing is wind noise—whether you wear a full face helmet (like I do), a modular helmet, a half helmet, or none at all.
I’ve been wearing some kind of hearing protection for many years—I just didn’t start soon enough. So when Big Ear reached out to me to see if I would give their hearing protection a try, I was interested and jumped at the chance to see if custom hearing protection was really worth the hype.
Because I live in Utah, Big Ear sent me to Steve Harkleroad, their local agent who explained to me what makes these custom earplugs superior and why the $108 price tag is worth the price. I’ve been riding with these ear plugs now for the last month and have become a fan.
I’m convinced that much of the fatigue you feel at the end of a long ride is due to the constant decibels of wind noise you experience blasting down the highway. After six or so hours on the road for two or three days in a row, I didn’t experience any of that and felt better after a day of touring than I had expected.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical that this hearing protection would make as big a difference as they claimed, but they did. I was surprised at how something as simple as hearing protection could improve the comfort of my ride, but even if I’m only going to be on the bike for a few minutes, I put the ear plugs in before I put the helmet on every ride.
What’s more, I found it much easier to hear and understand what was being said on my Sena intercom system. Although it doesn’t completely cut out every bit of road noise (and I don’t think you would want that anyway), the 82dbs of noise reduction made a huge difference.
The process to have your custom ear plugs made is pretty straightforward and only takes a little longer than an hour. After choosing from a selection of potential colors, Steve gave my ears the once over and injected the polymer (for lack of a better term) into my ears to create what they call Perfect Fit Technology®.
While we waited, we talked motorcycles, the tours we’d been on, and why hearing protection is so important.
It doesn’t take long for the material to harden enough to come out of your ear, but as you can see in the above photo, they fit well enough that even if you wear a full face helmet they don’t get in the way.
Before Steve gave them to me, he cleaned up the edges so they would slide in and out of my ear like they were supposed to. He also told me how to take care of them.
Other than cleaning them with soap and water, there was no other special treatment I need to give them to keep them working the way they should. I put the case in my jacket pocket, so they are always there. You’ll want to take them off when you’re off the bike. At a fuel stop, I usually take one of them out so I can hear if anyone speaks to me, but they are otherwise comfortable and barely noticeable when on the bike.
In addition to the earplugs, Big Ear also makes custom monitors that reduce wind noise, but allow you to plug directly into a digital device like an iPhone or other MP3 player so you can easily listen to music or other audio without any outside noise interference at all. Depending upon what you choose, they are a bit more pricey than the earplugs, but if they work as well as the earplugs and you want to listen to music you can actually hear on the road, these monitors could be an option to consider.
I once left a lunch stop and someone in the parking lot noticed I was putting hearing protection in before I put my helmet on and sarcastically said something like, “Oh, is your bike so loud that you need ear plugs? I thought bikers were tough.”
Being secure in the tens of thousands of miles I’ve put on a motorcycle, I just replied, “Yeah, I don’t need to be a hero,” and left it at that.
The constant drone of wind noise is not something to ignore. You don’t have to be stupid to be tough.
NOTE: When you have yours made, they will describe kind of a twisting motion as you push them into your ear canal. You want to make sure they are seated in your ear properly to avoid any hotspots. I love these things. It’s hard to believe something as simple as this will make such a big difference, but it will.
Having experienced some hearing loss, I can appreciate how important it is to protect what hearing I have left. If you ride, you should wear some kind of hearing protection—and these custom ear plugs are now a permanent part of my motorcycle safety gear. I guess that makes me a fanboy, but I won’t ride without them anymore.
To learn more and find out who in your area can hook you up, check out https://www.bigearinc.com. Not only do they make a great product, they back it up should you have any issues. This is a no regrets purchase.
If you’ve had experience with Big Ear yourself, share your experience in the comments.