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post #1 of 26 (permalink) Old 26-Mar-2018, 12:17 PM (720) Thread Starter
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Hearing Protection - a justification

Opinions will always vary on this. Maybe not as much as an oil or tires thread and definitely not as much as "how do I break it in" thread. But I sometimes read people post that "I'd never ride with hearing protection for such and such a reason and it's not bothering me."

What many don't understand is that "losing your hearing" does not mean that you don't hear things, perhaps just as loudly as you ever did. What it means most often is that you are losing the ability to hear certain sounds or frequencies of sounds. For most people, this means that the higher end of their hearing range is going first. While you may not an audiophile or care whether or not you can hear Ella break a crystal glass, what the loss of that range of your hearing costs you is the ability to distinguish between certain subtle sounds. Like hearing the difference in a "ch" sound and a "sh" sound; a "ba" sound or a "pa" sound - or many others that happen in just about every sentence you hear.

So you're saying your hearing is fine but your wife keeps saying you must be hard of hearing and truth be told, often times she hears back "huh?" So your hearing is fine is it? Then to your wife that means that you just don't care what she has to say When actually what it means is that you heard her, but you didn't understand what she said because of your compromised ability to hear high frequency subtle sounds in speech.

When we're younger, our brains have this amazing ability to compensate for some loss of senses. As we get older, both our hearing is damaged and our brains have less ability to adapt to the loss. That involves a topic called brain elasticity. You have less of that when you're older. The good news is that you can still train your brain to be able to hear those sounds a bit better to compensate for the hearing loss. That improvement is possible because we still retain some amount of brain elasticity. But, it's just a lot harder to do and it takes many, many hours of audio training to see any improvement - way more effort than protecting your hearing to begin with.

If you're not wearing hearing protection, I have one important bit of advice that you are going to need to keep your marriage healthier. The phrase is "Honey, I heard you but I didn't quite understand what you said." That way she knows you care about what she says but she needs to say it again more clearly because you're an idiot that didn't protect your ears. I'm speaking from experience here.

I grew up racing motorcycles and playing in bands most of my young life. Later in life, I got very involved in competitive pistol matches and flying aerobatic airplanes. The cockpit of my Pitts is just about the most continuously noisy place you could ever find yourself having fun - way noisier than a rock concert. I've made it a priority most of my life to understand how my ears can be damaged and what I can do for hearing protection. I just never thought to do it on a motorcycle because, hey, I'm wearing a full face helmet. And yet, now I have tinnitus (ringing in my ears from high frequency roll off in my hearing) and often times do not enjoy being at a party in a room full of people because I can't understand anyone with a lot of background noise. So even if you are very careful to protect your hearing, you're still going to likely be faced with this someday. But wouldn't you like for that to be as late in your life and as little as possible?

It was only later in life that I started wearing hearing protection on motorcycles (other than full face helmet). I always wore hearing protection on the range and had the best ANR headsets available in the plane. Several years ago, after several all day rides, is when I first noticed the ringing in my ears that wasn't going away. About ten years before that, I had received the results from an executive physical required by my company that said that I basically still had the hearing of a dog. Off the charts good. I was in denial that I'd injured my ears until the audiologist told me that I had much less sensitivity to high frequency sound and that was what was causing the tinnitus - not curable and I had to live with it. But, I should be making every effort to protect what I had left. That's when I really started researching motorcycle hearing protection.

There's lots of cheap solutions out there and some are great and some are not. This is not at all a "get what you pay for" kind of thing and price does not mean better. The cheap foamy plugs you can get at any pharmacy are equal to the best of the best custom molded ear plugs or in-ear-monitors. A bottle of 50 for just a few bucks.





You can see there that, when you wear them properly, that the noise attenuation is great (32 dB) in the low frequencies but spectacular in the higher frequencies where you hearing is most quickly damaged. So these will protect your ears and I wear them all the time when I'm not concerned about helmet audio. But these are very unsatisfying if you're trying to also hear an intercom or other audio inside your hat. You end up having to turn up the audio to full to blast past the ear plugs and it still won't be very good audio. That's when I went on the search for some ear phones that would match the performance of the ear plugs.

I looked at just about everything on the market and there are lots of products. It had to provide great noise attenuation, have decent audio but not necessarily audiophile quality, and most importantly had to be all day comfortable inside my quirky and narrow ear holes. I talked to a lot of people and kept coming back over and over again to Sensaphonics. A lot of people are perfectly happy with much less expensive ear phones but these checked all the boxes for me. Over 40 dB of noise attenuation and because they're made from medical grade soft silicone and are custom molded by a trained audiologist (and not some knucklehead at a trade show) they have been comfortable for me for 12 - 14 hour days, day after day out on the road. As an added feature, they are pretty amazing audio quality - not that it matters much when I'm on the bike but I'll also use them sometimes when I'm in my tent or hotel room watching a movie on my phone.

Anything is better than nothing but please don't make the mistake of thinking that because you're wearing a high quality full face helmet that you're wearing hearing protection. The quietest helmet ever tested is the Schuberth C3 and it measured just over 80 dB at something like 70 mph. Your hearing is permanently damaged by 85 dB noise when exposed for more than 8 hours. You may not be wearing the best helmet for noise, or your bike may have noisy wind protection, or your lid might not fit tight - if you're exposed to 88 dB of sound for 4 hours your hearing is permanently damaged. OK, let's say your helmet is a bit noisy and you're riding faster - at 94dB your hearing is permanently damaged after 1 hour of exposure. Don't get me wrong, you don't get tinnitus that fast but when your hearing is damaged it never gets better and just compounds over time until someday you are at a party and can't understand what anyone is saying even when they are right in your face. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

OK, that's my public service announcement. If you don't chose to protect your hearing it's nothing to me. But you make informed choices about other aspects of your health right? Do your own research and make your choice because regardless of what you think of anything I've just written here, you'll have to live with it.

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post #2 of 26 (permalink) Old 26-Mar-2018, 01:33 PM (773)
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Which model of Sensaphonics do you have? Are you using their ear plugs or an in ear monitor that is compatible with your intercom system?
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post #3 of 26 (permalink) Old 26-Mar-2018, 07:49 PM (034)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GrayBeard View Post
Opinions will always vary on this. Maybe not as much as an oil or tires thread and definitely not as much as "how do I break it in" thread. But I sometimes read people post that "I'd never ride with hearing protection for such and such a reason and it's not bothering me."

What many don't understand is that "losing your hearing" does not mean that you don't hear things, perhaps just as loudly as you ever did. What it means most often is that you are losing the ability to hear certain sounds or frequencies of sounds. For most people, this means that the higher end of their hearing range is going first. While you may not an audiophile or care whether or not you can hear Ella break a crystal glass, what the loss of that range of your hearing costs you is the ability to distinguish between certain subtle sounds. Like hearing the difference in a "ch" sound and a "sh" sound; a "ba" sound or a "pa" sound - or many others that happen in just about every sentence you hear.

So you're saying your hearing is fine but your wife keeps saying you must be hard of hearing and truth be told, often times she hears back "huh?" So your hearing is fine is it? Then to your wife that means that you just don't care what she has to say When actually what it means is that you heard her, but you didn't understand what she said because of your compromised ability to hear high frequency subtle sounds in speech.

When we're younger, our brains have this amazing ability to compensate for some loss of senses. As we get older, both our hearing is damaged and our brains have less ability to adapt to the loss. That involves a topic called brain elasticity. You have less of that when you're older. The good news is that you can still train your brain to be able to hear those sounds a bit better to compensate for the hearing loss. That improvement is possible because we still retain some amount of brain elasticity. But, it's just a lot harder to do and it takes many, many hours of audio training to see any improvement - way more effort than protecting your hearing to begin with.

If you're not wearing hearing protection, I have one important bit of advice that you are going to need to keep your marriage healthier. The phrase is "Honey, I heard you but I didn't quite understand what you said." That way she knows you care about what she says but she needs to say it again more clearly because you're an idiot that didn't protect your ears. I'm speaking from experience here.

I grew up racing motorcycles and playing in bands most of my young life. Later in life, I got very involved in competitive pistol matches and flying aerobatic airplanes. The cockpit of my Pitts is just about the most continuously noisy place you could ever find yourself having fun - way noisier than a rock concert. I've made it a priority most of my life to understand how my ears can be damaged and what I can do for hearing protection. I just never thought to do it on a motorcycle because, hey, I'm wearing a full face helmet. And yet, now I have tinnitus (ringing in my ears from high frequency roll off in my hearing) and often times do not enjoy being at a party in a room full of people because I can't understand anyone with a lot of background noise. So even if you are very careful to protect your hearing, you're still going to likely be faced with this someday. But wouldn't you like for that to be as late in your life and as little as possible?

It was only later in life that I started wearing hearing protection on motorcycles (other than full face helmet). I always wore hearing protection on the range and had the best ANR headsets available in the plane. Several years ago, after several all day rides, is when I first noticed the ringing in my ears that wasn't going away. About ten years before that, I had received the results from an executive physical required by my company that said that I basically still had the hearing of a dog. Off the charts good. I was in denial that I'd injured my ears until the audiologist told me that I had much less sensitivity to high frequency sound and that was what was causing the tinnitus - not curable and I had to live with it. But, I should be making every effort to protect what I had left. That's when I really started researching motorcycle hearing protection.

There's lots of cheap solutions out there and some are great and some are not. This is not at all a "get what you pay for" kind of thing and price does not mean better. The cheap foamy plugs you can get at any pharmacy are equal to the best of the best custom molded ear plugs or in-ear-monitors. A bottle of 50 for just a few bucks.





You can see there that, when you wear them properly, that the noise attenuation is great (32 dB) in the low frequencies but spectacular in the higher frequencies where you hearing is most quickly damaged. So these will protect your ears and I wear them all the time when I'm not concerned about helmet audio. But these are very unsatisfying if you're trying to also hear an intercom or other audio inside your hat. You end up having to turn up the audio to full to blast past the ear plugs and it still won't be very good audio. That's when I went on the search for some ear phones that would match the performance of the ear plugs.

I looked at just about everything on the market and there are lots of products. It had to provide great noise attenuation, have decent audio but not necessarily audiophile quality, and most importantly had to be all day comfortable inside my quirky and narrow ear holes. I talked to a lot of people and kept coming back over and over again to Sensaphonics. A lot of people are perfectly happy with much less expensive ear phones but these checked all the boxes for me. Over 40 dB of noise attenuation and because they're made from medical grade soft silicone and are custom molded by a trained audiologist (and not some knucklehead at a trade show) they have been comfortable for me for 12 - 14 hour days, day after day out on the road. As an added feature, they are pretty amazing audio quality - not that it matters much when I'm on the bike but I'll also use them sometimes when I'm in my tent or hotel room watching a movie on my phone.

Anything is better than nothing but please don't make the mistake of thinking that because you're wearing a high quality full face helmet that you're wearing hearing protection. The quietest helmet ever tested is the Schuberth C3 and it measured just over 80 dB at something like 70 mph. Your hearing is permanently damaged by 85 dB noise when exposed for more than 8 hours. You may not be wearing the best helmet for noise, or your bike may have noisy wind protection, or your lid might not fit tight - if you're exposed to 88 dB of sound for 4 hours your hearing is permanently damaged. OK, let's say your helmet is a bit noisy and you're riding faster - at 94dB your hearing is permanently damaged after 1 hour of exposure. Don't get me wrong, you don't get tinnitus that fast but when your hearing is damaged it never gets better and just compounds over time until someday you are at a party and can't understand what anyone is saying even when they are right in your face. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

OK, that's my public service announcement. If you don't chose to protect your hearing it's nothing to me. But you make informed choices about other aspects of your health right? Do your own research and make your choice because regardless of what you think of anything I've just written here, you'll have to live with it.

I couldnt agree more! Didnt use it for many years and now developed tinnitus (Ringing of the ears)
Loud sounds bother me many times now including loud exhausts and air flow around the helmet!
Tinnitus can drive people to suicide and has a big impact psychologically........I am an ENT Surgeon so have seen tons of patients like this and I actually kick myself for not having used hearing protection earlier on
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post #4 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 03:55 AM (371)
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Thank you for sharing those words of wisdom. I couldn't agree more. I use the cheap foam ones, but they do indeed get in the way of intercom communications. At the moment my only solution is to blast the intercom on full volume, but even that doesn't do the trick too well.

What are those sensaphonics earphones you use? Are they "active" noise cancellation or the standard passive ones? Presumably you have to physically connect those to your helmet somehow, for intercom use, and keep using the intercom microphone?

Thanks for the insight.

Another thing : this doesn't replace the use of ear-buds, but a tall windscreen reduces wind noise for sure. It all helps.
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post #5 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 04:11 AM (383) Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by BigBuf View Post
Which model of Sensaphonics do you have? Are you using their ear plugs or an in ear monitor that is compatible with your intercom system?
https://www.sensaphonics.com/2x-s

At the time I bought mine, there was only this one, the 2MAX, and 3MAX. Since I'm riding a bike I didn't think it was worth it to spend the extra money for audiophile sound and the 2x-s sounds fine to me.
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post #6 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 04:27 AM (393) Thread Starter
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Thank you for sharing those words of wisdom. I couldn't agree more. I use the cheap foam ones, but they do indeed get in the way of intercom communications. At the moment my only solution is to blast the intercom on full volume, but even that doesn't do the trick too well.

What are those sensaphonics earphones you use? Are they "active" noise cancellation or the standard passive ones? Presumably you have to physically connect those to your helmet somehow, for intercom use, and keep using the intercom microphone?

Thanks for the insight.

Another thing : this doesn't replace the use of ear-buds, but a tall windscreen reduces wind noise for sure. It all helps.
The Sensaphonics come with a 3mm male jack on a short (or optionally longer) cord that plugs in to my Sena BT headset. I primarily use it for intercom on long trips with my friends.

The are not ANR but because of the custom molded, high quality silicone they provide as good passive noise attenuation as the excellent foamy ear plugs.

A couple of additional comments:

Ear hygiene is important any time you are sticking something in your ear. I've heard of people packing their ear wax (I know, TMI) and having to see their doc to get their ears cleaned out. Every time I get out of the shower, I swab out my ears with a q-tip and because I stay on top of it, there's never any danger of pushing the wax farther into my ear.

Secondly, keep them clean. It should go without saying that if you drop your ear phones in a dirt place where germs and dirt live, clean them well before you stick them back in your noggin. I know of one particularly nasty ear infection that the friend thinks was caused by this - maybe one of the MDs on here could chime in on that.

Lastly, I carry a tiny tube of Neosporin +Pain in my earphones case. The first time each day that I put them on, I dab a small amount and smear it around the part that goes in my ear taking care not to get any near the holes in the earphone. This makes them slide in much more easily making it simple to get them seated properly and the tiny bit of ointment make an even better seal. I've been doing this for 7 years now with no problems.
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Last edited by GrayBeard; 27-Mar-2018 at 04:42 AM (404).
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post #7 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 04:41 AM (403)
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Thank you for sharing those words of wisdom. I couldn't agree more. I use the cheap foam ones, but they do indeed get in the way of intercom communications. At the moment my only solution is to blast the intercom on full volume, but even that doesn't do the trick too well.

What are those sensaphonics earphones you use? Are they "active" noise cancellation or the standard passive ones? Presumably you have to physically connect those to your helmet somehow, for intercom use, and keep using the intercom microphone?

Thanks for the insight.

Another thing : this doesn't replace the use of ear-buds, but a tall windscreen reduces wind noise for sure. It all helps.
I found out that cutting off about 40% of the foam pieces would let slightly more sound through while still be more than sufficient in respect of reducing general noice.
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Last edited by roxteady; 27-Mar-2018 at 05:28 AM (436).
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post #8 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 07:26 AM (518)
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Originally Posted by GrayBeard View Post
The Sensaphonics come with a 3mm male jack on a short (or optionally longer) cord that plugs in to my Sena BT headset. I primarily use it for intercom on long trips with my friends.

The are not ANR but because of the custom molded, high quality silicone they provide as good passive noise attenuation as the excellent foamy ear plugs.
Thanks. I had forgotten those things come with a 3.5mm jack. I'll check on my packtalk but I vaguely recall plugging the speakers into the the base of the device somehow, probably some concealed cables underneath the helmet foam. I may have to fiddle with it and see how easy it is to interchange between the packtalk pads plugged in and some high quality ear buds.
Can't find any sensaphonics vendors on my part of the world, but will have to research an equivalent. I do think moulded ones are the way to go!

So presumably your sensaphonics dangle from the helmet when you remove it? No danger in ripping connector in the process? I think I have to test the practicality but I love the idea or riding in silence and still having a functional intercom!
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post #9 of 26 (permalink) Old 27-Mar-2018, 09:02 AM (584) Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ayep View Post
Thanks. I had forgotten those things come with a 3.5mm jack. I'll check on my packtalk but I vaguely recall plugging the speakers into the the base of the device somehow, probably some concealed cables underneath the helmet foam. I may have to fiddle with it and see how easy it is to interchange between the packtalk pads plugged in and some high quality ear buds.
Can't find any sensaphonics vendors on my part of the world, but will have to research an equivalent. I do think moulded ones are the way to go!

So presumably your sensaphonics dangle from the helmet when you remove it? No danger in ripping connector in the process? I think I have to test the practicality but I love the idea or riding in silence and still having a functional intercom!
You have to be a little careful when you remove your helmet and occasionally I'll pull out an ear bud when removing my helmet. When the helmet is off, I drop the ear phones inside it if I'm at lunch or a quick stop. If I'm stopped for a while, I'll put them back in their case. They come from Sensaphonics in a pelican case.

Only a Sensaphonics authorized audiologist can set you up with the molds and your order. The visit to the audiologist at Johns Hopkins was included in the price of the head set as well as the follow up visit to make sure they fit properly and that I knew how to install them and remove them from my ears. There's a place on the Sensaphonics web site for looking up an audiologist near you. If you don't find one just call Sensaphonics.

I should say that I have nothing to do with Sensaphonics other than I own a set of their IEMs and I've been happy with them and their service. I haven't looked in a while and there may be other products out there that work as well. I would suggest staying away from anything hard plastic going in your ears. But if you do go with Sensaphonics, make sure you tell them you want a short drop cord and not the over the ear version. The over the ear version of Sensaphonics is used by just about every recording artist and studio engineer in the business. They're also used by NASCAR and Formula 1 teams and many other motorsports applications that are used under a helmet - hence, the drop cord version.
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post #10 of 26 (permalink) Old 28-Mar-2018, 05:25 PM (934)
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Thanks for the heads up on hearing damage! This post has me back to being more careful. I am waiting on a wind deflector that attaches to windshield to help reduce wind noise, but now will use ear plugs as well. I find the swimmers ear plugs most convenient and effective, the orange ones.
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