Why ear plugs?
The noise is part of the reason I wanted to buy a Caterham, so why am I writing about ear plugs? A blat of any length involves a lot of wind noise and, particularly when my average drive is over a couple of hours, headaches will result. I also worry about damaging my hearing. Frankly, wind noise just isn’t much fun after a while.
What I’m looking for
I want hearing protectors to:
- protect my hearing;
- stop headaches;
- block the wind noise;
- preserve the traffic noise for safety’s sake;
- still enable me to hear the exhaust and induction noise clearly;
- allow me to conduct a conversation with my passenger without shouting.
When I rode a bike, I used to use foam ear plugs which did OK, but simply muffled everything. Technology has moved on since then, and now there are things like replaceable noise filters and decibel reduction ratings. Here’s what I’ve found from the ones I’ve tried.
I really like these. Comfortable, with a couple of differently graded filters to adjust the amount of noise reduction. The body of them is made of soft silicone with a small pull-tab to ease then out of the ear. This means they don’t have a short stub or any sort of protrusion beyond the outer ear like many other ear protectors do, making them great for when wearing a helmet. I can hold a conversation in a normal voice with my passenger, while not missing out on the lovely bass tone of the exhaust and intake noise, and I can hear other traffic around me. After a couple of hours driving, I’ve forgotten I’m wearing them, but when I take them out I have no annoying ringing in the ears. The storage tube has two compartments, one to hold the protectors you will wear and one for the spare should you lose one. They are marketed as for concert/DJ use but they are very effective for the car. My top pick, a very high quality product.
A little larger in diameter than the Ear Peace, the Senner Strong Pros also come in a protective metal case, but there are no spares and just one compartment. They have a permanent, non-replaceable filter in the central stub which stuck out slightly from my ear, making wearing them with a helmet uncomfortable when putting the helmet on or removing it.
Once settled into the lid, the protrusions didn’t catch and they were reasonably comfortable, however I could not get them to sit correctly in my ears, helmet or no helmet, perhaps a quirk of the shape or diameter of my ear canal. As a result I did not have a good experience with them over an extended period of use. After a few minutes I’d notice an increase in noise levels as one of them shifted out of position. When they did hold in place, I found the noise reduction effective, although it was more of a noise deadening across the sound spectrum, rather than the more focused reduction of key areas that the Ear Peace buds manage to deliver. I’d only recommend trying them if the other options here don’t work for you.
The ACS ER-20 came highly recommended when I did a bit of internet research on the topic. I found them to be comfortable, to fit well and to be capable of removing the harmful volume in the wind noise when driving. These were the first plugs I bought and they proved a tough challenger to beat. That is, until I drove with a helmet on. My primary gripe with them is the long stubs that stick out from the centre of the plug that hold the filter and provide the means to insert or remove the plug. Even longer than the Senner Strong Pro, I really did not find them comfortable in a helmet, and when I put the helmet on, often one would dislodge, forcing me to remove the helmet again. One other thing, they come with a rubberised case that one squeezes to pop open the top. Mine broke in the first five minutes of use. Although I haven’t lost one of the buds yet, I can’t help thinking it’ll be long before I do. In summary, great fit if not on a trackday, comfortable and I could still hear everything I wanted to, it’s just a shame they aren’t helmet-compatible for me.
Do let me know if you have any recommendations for ear protection in the comments below.