Whether you wear a full-face helmet, a three-quarter or a shorty, ear plugs are a must. Hearing damage is cumulative and permanent. It takes a little effort to find an earplug that will work for you, but it will be worth it. It’s much less cost and effort than hearing aids, I can assure you.
When your ears are exposed to constant wind noise, several things happen: the cilia inside your ears get tired (no, seriously) and collapse. Your brain gets tired from filtering out all that extraneous noise, and that causes unnecessary fatigue. The nerve connections between your ears and your brain can sustain damage.
All of that combined means hearing loss. If you’ve ever found your ears ringing after a stint on the highway, that means, without question, you are damaging your hearing. A 60mph wind will cause hearing damage within 15 minutes. You have 7 minutes at 75mph, and 3 minutes at 85mph with no hearing protection. Yes, if you're not wearing ear plugs you are definitely slowly going deaf.
Windshields and full-face helmets can damp the wind noise some, but they often just change the windflow without quieting the noise. Earplugs are a great low-cost way to protect your hearing. The frequency of wind is excellent at damaging humans’ hearing. Ear plugs will filter out those frequencies but they absolutely do still allow you to hear sirens, horns, and other traffic warnings. If you find the earplugs you've used block too much sound, try different ones.
There are a bunch of different ear plugs on the market, and they can be divided into two simple categories: disposable and reusable. Disposable ear plugs are made of foam, and the general rule is, they work well three times: if you wear them all day three days in a row, or if you take them out and reinsert them three times in one day, they’re done, the foam wears out, and they don’t hold a good seal anymore. They must be inserted in a specific way into your ear, and you can see that process on the CDC website here.
There is a huge variety of foam ear plugs on the market: they come in a ton of different shapes and sizes. If you’ve found that foam ear plugs you’ve tried either didn’t offer you much protection (they did not seal well), that probably means you need plugs for a larger ear canal. If you found that they hurt your ears or caused a headache after wearing them for a while, you will want to look for smaller plugs or some that are made of a softer foam.
Reusable plugs are a little more expensive, and require maintenance. If you never wash your reusable ear plugs, you will get ear infections. There are lots of motorcycle-specific reusable ear plugs on the market today. Find some that have their own case and are easily washable.
Keep in mind that, like any body part, humans’ ear canals come in a large variety of shapes and sizes, so an ear plug that works for your friend might not work well for you. It is worth your time and effort to find a reliably comfortable brand and style of ear plugs that work in your ears.
You might need to modify them: I have personally found that most ear plugs are too long for my ear canals and I need to cut them down before I can use them. Some of the reusable ear plugs that look like three round fins are too long to fit under a helmet; note that any part of an ear plug that makes physical contact with the inside of your helmet will transmit noise into your ear through that contact. Make sure the plugs are well seated inside your ear canals and no part of them hangs out to rub on your helmet liner.
I highly recommend you ask your friends what ear plugs they use, and if you can try a pair of theirs: that’s the easiest, cheapest way to go about finding a good, comfortable pair of ear plugs. If your friends are all already deaf, try an ear plug variety pack. I don’t recommend the corded ones, as the cords can transmit noise when they rattle around in the wind (those are for industrial applications, as are the metal-detectable earplugs). The initial cost is worth finding plugs that work for you.
Some of the better disposable ear plugs I’ve found are made by Mack’s, Howard Leight, Moldex, and Hearos.
Good luck everybody, and happy hearing!
Source: Alpine Hearing