Even if you buy the quietest, most expensive motorcycle helmet available on the market, you still don't get proper sound protection. As we recently found out, while helmets do reduce the level of decibels perceived on the inside, the only real way to protect your hearing is by using a pair of earplugs.
Thankfully, you don’t have to resort to foam plugs that indiscriminately block all sounds and make you feel like you’re underwater. Technology has allowed manufacturers to come up with “smart” earplugs that filter sounds rather than block them altogether. That means that the user can still hear some ambient noise but the levels are much lower and therefore not as damaging for the ears.
While we promote the use of gear and proper protection on RideApart, when Vibes reached out to us to test and review their Hi-Fi earplugs, it made us realize we barely discuss ear protectors at all. The thing is—once your hearing is damaged, the chances of fixing the damage are slim to none. So, we need to have more discussions about how we, as riders, can protect our precious ears better, starting with earplugs.
While I’m the type, I never really got into the habit of wearing ear protection. I will sometimes wear a Bluetooth earphone when I need to follow navigation instructions, but I usually only wear one to be able to hear what’s happening around me. I’ve always had a bit of a concern about blocking out my hearing while on a bike. I’m also paying the price of that negligence with semi-constant tinnitus. 0/10, would not recommend.
Because I’m not a regular earplug wearer, I wanted to see whether it’s a habit I could change. Putting the Vibes Hi-Fi to the test seemed like the ideal opportunity to also test myself. While the manufacturer lists motorcycling as one of its earplugs' multiple uses, they aren’t specifically designed for riding. They’re meant to be used in any high-decibel environments from concerts to crowded events and even to fitness classes. You don’t want those expensive tickets to go to waste because you’re trying to protect your ears but end up not hearing the music, right? Simply put, you want the best of both worlds: enjoy the show and protect your ears. Well, I want the same when I ride. I think we all do.
Good news, Vibes claims its earplugs do just that. So, I spent the month of August putting them to the test to see if they deliver and also to find out if I could rehabilitate myself and instore better habits. My first ride with the earplugs in was the weirdest experience I had in a long. Going from the wind howling in my ears like a harpy (my helmet is quite noisy) to a peaceful sea of tranquility was quite the disconcerting contrast.
However, it didn’t take me long to become partial to the peace and quiet because the earplugs don’t just block the sound like foam plugs do—they filter it. All the high-pitch, high-decibel, damaging tones are significantly reduced. You can still hear sounds, but they’re much quieter. It’s like your ears have a volume knob and you turned it down a notch.
“Using specially designed sound tubes that balance sound waves, and sound-enhancing acoustic filters that reduce decibel levels, Vibes allow you to protect your hearing health and stay comfortable in loud environments that would otherwise cause discomfort and hearing damage,” Vibes writes on its website.
I was even able to hear certain, more important sounds better such as surrounding vehicles and my motorcycle engine because the overpowering wind noise was now out of the equation. My concerns about not hearing what was happening around me were quickly put to rest. Considering they're also quite comfortable to wear, it was an overall easy transition to make.
Sure, the Vibes Hi-Fi aren’t the only product to make those fancy claims about filtering noise. The difference is that in this case, I can vouch that Vibes’ claim is pretty spot on. Add to that the fact that the Hi-Fi's design is more streamlined (compared to most models on the market that use a staggered shell design), the stems don’t get caught in the helmet, the pair comes with a set of interchangeable tips (S, M, and L) to find your fit, and the price tag is perfectly affordable and, in my book, we’re looking at a pretty solid product.
On top of it all, Vibes partnered with the Hear the World Foundation that supports projects worldwide to help children dealing with hearing loss thrive. A portion of the sale of each set of Hi-Fi earplugs is donated to the organization, just in case you wanted your $23.99 to go a little further.
If you’ve never used earplugs before or are looking for a “best of both worlds” kind of product, I can confirm that the Vibes Hi-Fi are a good set to consider, if only to support a good cause.