PlugUp’s Ear Plugs with Integrated Speakers

Jun 04, 2011 View Comments by

When talking about safety gear for riding a motorcycle, the first thing that comes to mind are helmets, jackets and pants with protective padding, and even back protectors. Pretty much anything that will add protection in case of an accident. But what about protecting your hearing from the constant noise that is ever present while riding the bike?

Noise is typically measured as Sound Pressure Level (SPL) in units called decibels, or dB for short. The decibel scale is logarithmic: every 3dB increase represents a doubling of the sound pressure level. Often quoted examples are (in the range we’re interested in) a rock concert at 110dB, city traffic at 90dB, and a noisy office at 70dB. The distance from the noise source is also critical. If the noise is twice as far away, the sound pressure level will be one-fourth.

We know that exposure to loud noise of any kind can produce hearing loss; and there are two factors that contribute to the level and permanence of hearing damage. These are how loud the noise is and the length of exposure. For example, the same level of hearing damage occurs from exposure to a noise level of 100dB for 2 hours as from experiencing 105dB for 1 hour.

Hearing loss can occur in two ways: Temporary Threshold Shift, as in the effect that usually pertains after a rock concert, wherein your hearing returns pretty much to normal after a few hours, and permanent hearing damage. However, a TTS lasting too long will also cause permanent damage.

So how injurious to your hearing can it be to ride without ear-way protection?

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lists safe exposure times for various noise levels. Riding with a full-face helmet without earplugs at 65mph generates an SPL at the ear of about 103dB, roughly equivalent to operating a chainsaw. OSHA’s safe exposure time for this noise level is around 1 hour. At 100mph, the SPL rises to more than 110dB, safe for less than 15 minutes. The style or brand of helmet seems to make little difference.

PlugUp’s Custom Molded Ear Plugs

I finally got a chance to review PlugUp’s custom-molded ear plugs with integrated speakers. In January, I got them molded at the NYC motorcycle show, however, the cold spring weather kept me from putting them into action while riding up until the past few weeks.

The soft silicone mold fits perfectly into my ear canal and attenuates most of the loud sounds, especially exhaust and helmet noise. My helmet fits very tightly and the ear plugs still feel comfortable after 3 hours of riding. The speakers have great sound quality, and I have now used them on multiple occasions with my MP3 player while off-roading and with my GPS unit while touring. The standard gold plated 3.5” (1/8″) plug of the speaker wire fits almost any device with an audio output either directly or with an adapter.

Further details on the ear plugs can be found on the PlugUp website, or you can swing by at their booth at the Americade (Million Dollar Beach Booth # 922-923).

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About the author

I've been riding street bikes since my early teens, and I've been addicted ever since. I can currently be found in Northern New Jersey on my quest to discover all the great backroads.