Thursday, June 11, 2015

Don’t damage your hearing

The importance of being earnest wearing ear plugs cannot be overstated.

I used to be one of the guys who scoffed at the idea and claimed they were uncomfortable or I could not bear to ride with them. Then came the day I knew I had damaged my hearing. Here is my simple layman explanation of how easy this can happen.

Do you sometimes have a ringing in the ears after a ride? But it goes away right? Well one day you will go to bed and think gee that ringing is quite noticeable tonight, oh well it will be gone when I wake up but then the next day it is still going to be there. And then you find it continues to be ringing all day, and the next day and the next. Unfortunately it will now be ringing every minute for the rest of your life and there is nothing that can be done about it. All those rides without ear plugs have finally caught up, the ringing previously you heard was the damage you had already caused. Your brain incredibly had been able to conceal the ringing previously, masking/hiding this noise for you because the damage never fixes itself but eventually the damage reaches a level where the brain can no longer tune out the ringing.

This way the brain for awhile tunes out the noise is what made me ignore it. We acknowledge our ears ringing and we know that means we have done something but then it seems to go away so we think no problem it was only temporary or it has healed now but this is not true. Repeated exposure and eventually the level of damage reaches a point that the ringing is there for good. Forever.

Ok look that is my non scientific version which is not entirely what happens but I just want to tell it how I experienced it to try break through to some riders to perhaps make a reader think hang on I get this - maybe I should be doing something. Like so many riders I only started to wear ear plugs after I had already damaged my hearing. Better I suppose that to continue and make matters even worse but I wish I had realised sooner.

All the preconceptions I had about wearing ear plugs were wrong – you just need a couple of rides with them to adjust. At first it will seem odd but then you will discover you can still hear your engine and cars and things around you and in fact with better clarity as your brain is not having to mask the wind roar for you to hear those things. You can enjoy the ride more and arrive with less fatigue. It is one of those things that once you make the adjustment after a couple of rides you will be amazed at how much better it is and what you have been missing out on all these years.

The other thing that stops people wearing ear plugs is getting them to fit. I struggled with this for 12 months. I purchased a number of ear plug sampler packs from the ear plug super store online. These packs had every shape and type of ear plug imaginable and then some. But if you are just thinking of trying ear plugs then read my suggestions below first and hopefully you need not go searching as much as I did.

Some of the plugs I got some years ago in the sample bags.

P1010138

plugs

I could never get any foam plug to fit into my ear, I rolled them to insert but could not get them to curl around 45 degrees into my ear so they would always fall out while riding and then I often would ride with them not properly fitted and thus cause myself even more hearing damage.

I tried the custom moulded ear plugs which people bang on about but found they had a modest noise reduction factor and for me would break their seal too often while riding. If these work for you then great but there not the right solution for everyone and others not drowned out online by the fanatics echo my results.

I started using the soft silicon swimmers ear plugs. These are very comfortable and offer medium level of noise reduction. Problem is they work out a bit expensive if you ride as often as i was at the time, even if buying them by the box like below. Now I could easy just use these if need be since I seem to ride far less.

P1010618[3] 

IMG_5495

Then I came across what they call ‘non-roll’ foam ear plugs. These are a hybrid plug that you push in like a hard reusable plug but they have foam outer for comfort. Not easy to find in shops but the ear plug super store has them if you dig about in their confusing menus. If you are in the UK then you might try All Ear Plugs online store who recently contacted me about a rider ear plug awareness campaign they have running. I have not purchased from them however they have a similar range and I presume can source hybrid plugs if you find regular foam doesn’t work for you.

Side note, this post was half written sitting in my Windows Live Writer in response to a discussion on the Gaijin riders forum where typically many riders scoff at wearing ear plugs. I was going to discard it thinking I am wasting my time, one person posted ‘are ear plugs even legal in Japan’ which sums up the general attitude by young riders towards them. I was same and now I regret not paying attention to what older riders told me (and indeed ignoring what older people have advised me all my life – but that is another story) Anyway I decided to dust this post off. If enough people are talking about it maybe some of the message might get heard.  

And finally back to foam plugs, I am now revisiting them. I watched the Moto GP riders inserting their ear plugs in the pre race stage and noticed a couple of guys pop them in their mouth and coat them with some saliva then slide them into their ears not rolled up. I went and got some regular foam plugs with the smooth external coating and tried this and after a couple of tries it really works. Not for everyone I suppose and your not going to be reusing the plugs doing this but I mention it as I see a few of the GP stars do this and if good enough for them then might be good enough for you also.

In any case when it comes to getting ear plugs that fit the good thing is you have so many options. Be it foam or hybrid or hard moulded or soft silicon. There is a solution that will work right for you and while you can buy special ones or in bulk online you can also simply walk into any pharmacy and get foam or silicon swimmers plugs or visit your local DIY shop where they will have many varieties. You can even get a box of 3 quality foam plugs at Daiso the 100 yen shop.

Don’t wait or one day it will be too late. 

7 comments:

  1. Excellent post Warren, unlike you I started wearing ear plugs a couple of months after starting riding and still wear them now 20 years later. I never really had a problem with them and your right about hearing things better with them on the bike than without them. At the end of a long ride we don't shout at each other because our ears are ringing so loud when we have plugs in. A good lesson here for younger riders.

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    1. I wish I had listened to others when younger. Too headstrong. Also a bit of that being one of the blokes thing which leads men to not take better care lest we appear in any way less rugged to others.

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  2. Thank you for this excellent reminder. There ahas a time when I was riding pillion when I didn't wear earplugs. Hard to find small enough ones.

    For the last 4-5 years of riding solo I've been using these as they are the only ones small enough and they sell them at a local motorcycle shop.

    http://goo.gl/ozSHQT

    Unfortunately I still don't think I hear as well as I used to back in the day.

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    1. I see the ear plug super store (no affiliation) has a few plugs in small sizes with higher dB reduction if you were concerned? Some of my hearing damage is actually all the live bands I used to attend every weekend when younger. I guess plenty of us would have some damage from non motorcycling activities :)

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    2. I'll have to check them out, thank you.

      I don't have to worry about live band damage, too many darn people at concerts for me. I've been to two and that was three too many.

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    3. Like Brandy I had a difficult time with ear plugs being small enough ... enter custom fit plugs - they are wonderful and if I ever forget to put them in, I think, what the heck is wrong ... oh, ya! forgot the ear plugs. You can get them made through your local hearing society or a myriad of companies at the larger bike shows.

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    4. I think I am same, as even with the silicon ones I can use children size.

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