Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
8/3/18 11:30 a.m.

Okay I've got a situation that I'm trying to make sense of. 

I always wear plugs usually the foam ones. I've been trying to get my windscreen tuned in and have found a pretty good placement with very little buffeting and low noise. 

However I was still getting some very loud low frequency drumming/droning noise that I couldn't get rid of no matter how I positioned the screen. It is annoyingly loud as in it takes a lot of the fun out of riding. 

I rode to work the other day without earplugs for the first time in years and it was a revelation. It was nearly silent. I could hear the engine noise was a little louder than it normally is but I could also hear things I've never heard before. Like the chain and the tires on the road. I can also hear traffic around me so much better. I can hear cars in my blind spot which I could never hear with plugs in unless it was a semi truck beside me. 

Plus that loud low frequency drumming is completely gone. The little wind noise I am getting, mainly from cross winds, seems to be much quieter than with the plugs in. 

I was thinking that maybe it was just my perception that it was quieter without the earplugs. So over the last couple of days I've done the commute with and without earplugs and have reached the conclusion that it is definitely quieter, much quieter without the earplugs in. 

So my question is why? 

My theory is I've recently purchased a new helmet that actually fits me correctly. All of my old helmets were too big. So with the earplugs in and a good fitting helmet I'm actually getting a bone conduction induced occlusion effect. 

I'm going to try some different earplugs to see if it's just the type I'm wearing that's causing it. 

Anyone have any input or suggestions?

Donebrokeit SuperDork
8/3/18 11:53 a.m.

I think you are on to the answer with some form of vibration (sound) being transmitted through the helemnt or your body. 


Just wondering, why were you wearing ear plugs to start with? I have poor hearing to start so I would never ride with them. Just wondering.


Paul B

stuart in mn
stuart in mn UltimaDork
8/3/18 12:48 p.m.

I have poor hearing to start so I always wear ear plugs - I don't want my hearing to get any worse than it already is.  The point of wearing them is not to block ALL sound, but to mainly knock down wind noise so you can hear what's going on around you. 

Back to the original post, I'd try some different brands or types of earplugs to see if that makes a difference.

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
8/3/18 12:52 p.m.

In reply to Donebrokeit :

Because the wind noise was unbearable. The ear plugs made it tolerable. 

spandak Reader
8/3/18 6:34 p.m.

I wear reusable plugs and find that if they aren’t fully inserted (which happens a lot, they move around) my exhaust resonates in my helmet at a certain rpm and it’s very uncomfortable. I don’t get the same effect without ear plugs. My helmet seems to be on the louder side so I always wear the plugs. I don’t know why this happens either but you’re not the only one. 

Nick Comstock
Nick Comstock MegaDork
8/3/18 7:13 p.m.

In reply to spandak :

I have had that experience in the past as well. This isn't that. This is a much much louder noise than that.  

In doing research this week I found several articles on the occlusion effect, which is a common issue with hearing aid users. The sound can be 20dB or more louder at the ear drum with the ear canal blocked than without. 

So let's say the sound of wind hitting my helmet is 85dB. Without earplugs I'm not able to pick that particular frequency out due to all of the other noise I'm hearing is at or above that dB level. However with the plugs in and the ear canal blocked let's say my earplugs are knocking all the other sound down 33dB which is their rating. So all the other sound is now 52dB at my eardrum. The helmet now is transmitting that wind blast to the bones in my skull and due to the occlusion effect I'm hearing that particular frequency now at 105dB, which is loud on its own but stands out even more because it's 53dB louder than all the other noise.  

That seems to be exactly what I'm experiencing. 

I've picked up a set of Mack's Hear Plugs High Fidelity Earplugs on the way home from work today. They only have an NRR of 12 dB but have an open air filter so I should be able to determine if my theory holds true.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker MegaDork
8/6/18 9:56 p.m.

So... I'm a cheap prick that even in unmuffled race cars just used the jar of foam ones they sell at walmart fo a long time. But, on long rides they gave me a headache from making my ears uncomfortable. I made my own with those mold creames you can buy. They worked great but I couldn't hear anything except my own heart and some thoughts. I finally paid actual money for those tuned ones that filter you down to Xn decibels but let some frequency ranges through. YMMV but, they work for me. I can hear people talk and I can hear my  slipper clutch giving up some over drive but the wind is not a thing that makes a headache. IIRC they wre $29 for what looks like $2 plugs but.....  40k miles later and I'm still using them every day.  I don't think my hearing is any worse, and I know after a whole day on the bike when I yank my lid off I don't need 10 minutes to let the wooshing sound go away.  Partial win?

AngryCorvair MegaDork
8/7/18 8:57 a.m.

In reply to Giant Purple Snorklewacker :

2 things.   first, good to see you posting again.  second, $29 is cheaper than a pair of Chuck Taylors.

Rusnak_322 Dork
8/7/18 2:37 p.m.

I only wear them when I have to ride longer distances on the highway.  i would get headaches without them from the wind noise. It doesn't bother me when riding around town or out in the country at slower speeds (I ride a naked bike - no wind protection).


I have a pair of the expensive, mold in your ear plugs. We were at the bike show and the guy selling them looked bored, so I was talking to him. next thing I know, I talked him into making them for me, my wife and a friend we were with for just about the price he was asking for 1 pair. They are nice, more comfortable than the disposable foam plugs.

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