In 2013 I attended a talk by Bharadwaj Dayala, an Indian rider who travelled around the world on his 223cc Hero Honda. He was quite an inspiration to a lot of Indians. Bharadwaj held us completely rapt with his crazy stories and amusing anecdotes.
He made a joke during the talk “After my RTW journey, I now find it difficult to hear women.” The audience laughed and the story carried on. That comment stayed with me and I later asked him what he meant by that. His response, “Due to the constant wind noise during my trip, I lost the ability to hear higher frequencies,” as he put in his hearing aid.
Ever since then, I use earplugs on all highway rides, initially using the cheaper 3M earplugs, which do a great job of noise insulation, but can leave you feeling quite claustrophobic. You will get used to them, eventually. And at $30 for 200 pieces, they’re well worth it.
I learnt about Acoustic Attenuation and an even dB cut as I dug deeper and did more research. The 3M plugs have an uneven Decibel cut, Which means the higher frequencies get cut off more than the lower ones. Try listening to your favourite music track with the 3M earplugs. You’ll feel something is missing. Not all frequencies will be audible, making conversation tougher, offline as well as using comm units.
Etymotic Research makes Motorsport specific earplugs. The ceramic filters used in these earplugs allow for that magical even decibel cut. I’ve had mine for 5 years now, and bought them for $25. They’re so comfortable that I use them not just for travel but also on my daily commute. I can hear the important stuff, ask for directions, and use a comm unit if required. And they cut out the unnecessary extra ambient noise.
A few other companies make motorcycle specific earplugs. The NoNoise plugs and the Alpine Motosafe earplugs. They both have inbuilt filters that allow an even decibel cut and cost around the same, in the $20-30 range.
For extra technical reading, check out the Etymotic research technical info page.
I know of a few motorcycle travellers who are audio engineers, all of them use the same brand: Etymotic Research. The reason given to me by one of them was, “If I lose any part of my hearing, I’ll lose my job.” That’s a good enough reason for me.
Featured image credit: the author.