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Professional Grade Hearing Protection


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In my quest to preserve what little hearing I have left, I've struggled forever with foam earplugs. They do a good job of attenuating noise, but I can't count the number of times I've worked for a couple of minutes to get them properly inserted, only to ride off and find myself a half-mile down the road with an earplug that's obviously not fully in place. Stop the bike, fiddle with it some more, and I usually get it right . . . on the second or third try.


A couple of years ago, I parted with about forty or fifty bucks (can't remember exactly) to get a set of custom-molded earplugs at the Cycle World Motorcycle Show in Chicago. While easy to insert, these custom earplugs also had some shortcomings--the amount of noise attenuation was not nearly as great as the (properly-inserted) foam plugs, and they made contact with my helmet speakers, causing an uncomfortable resonance. A little bit of carving took care of the latter problem, but they still never gave me the amount of hearing protection I'd hoped for.


I finally broke down and went to an audiologist who created molds of my ear canals and spent some time talking with me about which model of "earmold" was best for my needs. After consulting with a representative from Westone Laboratories (who, incidentally, is a motorcyclist), she ordered a pair of Westone Model 47 earmolds:




These earmolds provide a range of attenuation from 28 to 43 dB:




Westone actually makes an earmold specifically designed for motorcyclists, the Model 4RT, but the motorcycle-riding Westone representative recommended the Model 47 as being better for those of us who wear helmets.


The bottom line, though, is that for $90 I now own earmolds that actually work--they're very easy to insert (they're color-coded and take a second or two to insert, with no need to roll up an earplug in your fingers or tug on your earlobe) and they attenuate noise very well. The level of attenuation at different frequencies means that conversation through my intercom system remains reasonably audible, while other sounds are drastically reduced. The cost is actually significantly less than what I had anticipated; while more than disposables or my motorcycle show earplugs, it's a small investment to protect my hearing.


If you're interested, look for an audiologist in your area. For those of you in or near Chicago, I'd be happy to share more information about the audiologist who helped me out.

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