Squidgy earplugs: £85.00
Bluetooth earplugs: £235.00
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Research has shown that wind-related noise experienced by cyclists and motorcyclists can be loud enough to contribute to noise-induced hearing loss. With wind noise increasing proportionally with speed, ranging from 85dBA at 15mph to 120dBA at 60mph, prolonged or repeated wind exposure leads to permanent damage. For cycle racers who are sweating (but this can apply to dirt bike racers too), the dangers can be even more severe. With sweat and wind you have a higher likelihood of developing a condition known as Surfers ear, that causes bone to thicken, leading to a narrowing (and occasionally, a complete blockage) of the ear canal. It can result in significant hearing loss over time.
So wear ear plugs ladies and gents – not only is it more pleasant out riding but it will save your hearing in the long run. Don’t be fooled by thinking that you won’t hear your bike or the traffic (if you’re travelling) around you. You will.
My background: For enduro and motocross racing I used disposable silicone ear plugs for many years and they worked great, they’re cheap and come in a box with multiple pairs. However, for longer adventure and rally rides or on road they just didn’t stack up. They let way too much wind noise in and after an hour or two they were blessedly uncomfortable. It was time to step up the protection.
So I chose to have a custom set made by Ultimate Ear in Sidcup in the UK. As a first step this required me to make an appointment with an ear specialist to have the wax removed from my ears (£35) to ensure that the impressions were accurate and would ensure a perfect fit. The impressions themselves cost £95 and both services were set up for me by UE at consulting rooms near my house (you can go to UE and for £30 have the service done there – or meet them at a UK motorcycle show where they often attend). I waited for the mould which took about 15 – 20 minutes and posted them to Ultimate Ear.
When they arrived at UE I had a chat with George, one of the company’s customer service chaps, who walked me through the various options and prices. Once we’d decided on what I needed I elected the express service and he gave me a lead time of about 7 days for the finished product to arrive. Normal service times are between 15-21 days.
I chose two pairs of the filtered Squidgy plug (£85 each) for MX and enduro, and one pair of the ‘Bluetooth Sound ear’ (£235) for adventure and road riding when I may want to listen to music or connect to my comm’s units. And like a kid in a candy store I also ordered a pair of their bespoke ‘earphone gloves’ (£120) since they had my mould anyway. I elected to buy a set of earphones from them too. I wasn’t enamoured with my Apple AirPods falling out when training and they lacked quality sound listening to music and I’m so happy I did. The earphones I have are ‘Verve buds’ from Motorola and they are the best earphones I own by a country mile. Paired with the bespoke UE gloves I could not be happier. Strange that these are not marketed more widely but when you consider Motorola’s pedigree in the military communications field one should not be surprised that they work as well as they do. I’ve had them for a few years now and I just couldn’t be happier with them – it’s a buy once – cry once kind of thing but damn they’re worth it.
In all I’ve been super-impressed with Ultimate Ear. Great customer service and great – effective – products which combine proper protection with comfort.