When it came to hearing protection, my attitude used to be a resounding “meh, whatever.” It’s not that I wasn’t concerned about hearing loss (although it’s likely that attending dozens of heavy metal concerts over the last 20+ years has probably left me totally screwed in that regard anyway), but that I couldn’t wrap my head around the impact it could make. There weren’t many people talking about it in the motorcycling world, either.
Over the last few years, though, as my attitude has shifted from “just ride” to “be the best rider you can be, and help teach, inform, educate, and train others be better riders” I’ve done more research on the topic.
I ended up learning the science behind the effect noise has on feeling fatigued. The short version is that sustained noise, like from the wind and road noise experienced when riding a motorcycle, are a physical and mental stressor that will make a rider more fatigued. Fatigue is bad for riders. It causes us to be distracted, lack mental clarity and focus, and interferes with our coordination.
Now that it wasn’t just about protecting your ears and preventing hearing damage, but also about being able to sustain riding at a higher level for a longer period of time, my interest was piqued. The benefits of hearing protection was making more sense. It was probably time to get serious about adding some earplugs to the gear kit.
I had been seeing ads for Loop earplugs popping up in my social media feeds, and I was intrigued by their design and promises of both comfort and performance. They occupied a sweet spot niche in between expensive custom-fit filter earplugs, and cheap foam earplugs. I hopped on Amazon and ordered some. I have the Experience earplugs, which reduce noise by 20dB, and feature an acoustic filter for discrete audio clarity. Loop also has what they call their Quiet earplugs, which has a 25dB rating for additional protection, but no acoustic filter, so you won’t get quite as much clarity with speech, music, etc.
Loop’s packaging was fairly elegant and well thought out. Everyone seems to be taking a page from Apple’s book in regards to packaging design, which is always a nice touch. The box included the earplugs, silicone and foam tips in several different sizes, and a carrying case. After a little trial and error swapping out the tips to figure out which fit gave the most comfortable and secure fit, I was ready to stress test them on the road.
Once on the road, I couldn’t believe my ears. The Loop earplugs totally delivered. They exceeded my expectations, in fact. They filtered out the loudest peaks of wind, road, and engine noise, but allowed the music from my Cardo Bluetooth headset to come through clearly. With the removal of the wind and road noise, music and voice over the comm sounded better and more clear with the earplugs.
I found them to be pretty comfortable, too, even after hours of riding. The inclusion of both foam and silicone tips in different sizes makes it pretty easy to get a reasonably snug and comfortable fit. They may not work for everyone, and if you find that soft silicone earbuds or traditional foam earplugs cause you discomfort after wearing them for awhile, then you may be better off spending a bit more money and getting a set of custom-fit earplugs instead.
For me, the Loop earplugs were a game changer. Now it seems weird to ride without them. Give ’em a shot, you may end up liking what you (don’t) hear.