Ear Protection While Cycling


Ahoy Matees,

After a long and arduously soppy spring up here in Canada, summer has at long last descended on us with it's iron fist of sweaty retribution.

That means it's bicycle season!

Yesterday, in my enthusiasm, I hopped on the duo-ped and rode to work, all the way down-town after work, then home again to hop into bed happily pooped out and completely exhausted. Counting it up I spent at least 3 hours on the bike.

Great! Right?

I'm not so sure...

I like to ride quickly, partly to get the heart rate up, but also to keep up with traffic and thereby reduce my chances of getting run down by someone trying to pass me in their giganticar. This means that I have a whole lot of WIND flubble-dubbing it's way past my ears, up to three hours worth.

Now, I haven't done any measurements yet, but I'm going to hazard a guess that the SPL of that WIND has to be up around 85-90 dB. That means that yesterday I exposed my ears for three hours to a sound level that is nominally damaging after 15-30 minutes.

I tried using my musician's earplugs, but if anything they made it worse. And I'm pretty sure that using the big orange foamy ones would be an even dumber idea than riding with headphones on, like soooo many people seem to do. Being able to hear what's coming up behind me has saved my ass more than a handful of times, and those things are like rolling off the entire world with an LPF at 300 Hz.

I was thinking of building some kind of tichy baffle system to deflect the air around my ears, but I'm pretty sure I'd look a real moron with cardboard taped to the side of my head.

Do you guys have any tricks for lowering the wind rumble and keeping the hearing while on the cycle?

Panasonic RP-HT21 Headphones http://images.panasonic.com/static/models/rp-ht21.jpg

I bought a pair of these Panasonic RP-HT21 headphones and cut the cables off. They don't get rid of the wind, but the get the flubbley low end off your eardrums. Works well enough for the time being.

Added bonus: nobody ever seems to notice that the cables have been cut off, so if you don't want anyone to bother you you can just throw them on and have a great excuse for you not noticing that they're alive.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 4 260

@ g.a.harry Heya, a new response has brought this thread back up the list. Did you ever get any sort of measurements for this? If it was 85-90dbA then 3hrs a day would in theory be 'fine'. For this range the guideline is no more 8hrs a day before permanent damage may be caused. But of course it's always wise to protect your hearing, especially if such noise is making you feel uncomfortable! – Skarik – 2013-08-03T18:30:06.240



I cycle a lot and have worried about this before, I have tried wearing earphones to block my ear canal but I decided it was more dangerous because it makes traffic harder to hear.

This looks like it could be a decent solution - http://www.slipstreamz.com/content.asp?subID=8

I think the company is based in South Africa

I dont think they are designed with ear health in mind, but they claim it reduces wind noise to make you more aware of your surroundings. Have you ever put your hand in front of your ear to block the airflow while riding? it does make it a lot easier to hear things.

Haydn Payne

Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 1 150

2I have... makes it kinda hard to steer though... – g.a.harry – 2011-06-02T21:09:14.423


At last, I thought about it AND actually have an internet connection at hand. What about those winter headbands that cover your forehead and your ears? They come in various styles and colors so you can adjust the level of moron-looking-ness :)

alt text
(source: oneinhundred.com)

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(source: winterstyle.com)

Justin Huss

Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 2 656

I was thinking about the same thing. The Sound Tracker guy uses one of those as wind protection on his holophonic dummy head. I'm gonna have to give a go, in spite of the fact that it's summer and I'll probably look a complete ninny. – g.a.harry – 2011-06-26T01:19:40.227


I have sure se530s I use while I ride. They came with a little microphone that clips on your belt that amplifys the sound from around you then mixes it with your music. Not a cheap solution, but combined with my mirrors on my bike it is a workig solution. I ride for fitness instead of transportation so listening to music is importance for focus and motivation to me.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 81

Hmmm... cool idea for sure. I'll check it out. – g.a.harry – 2011-06-02T17:50:20.213


Cat-Ears, LLC (www.cat-ears.com) makes a number of products that reduce wind noise while cycling.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 11


the only solution i could think of (excluding a custom-made design) is to use this heavy-duty type of ear protectors, the type one would use in a shooting range, not sure what's the proper English name (?). the real expansive ones could give you quite extreme sonic isolation - which is risky in you case - but then you could 'hack' them a bit i.e. find a creative vandalistic way to degrade the product quality, and create a certain sound leakage which will be useful for filtering in the type of sounds you -are- interested in being aware of while cycling.

an alternative option which could make you look ridiculous yet fashionable and unique would be to use a super high quality full-head motorcycle helmet!


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 455

I don't think my neck is strong enough to hold one of those things up. – g.a.harry – 2011-06-02T17:50:53.973


You could try the Etymotic ETY plugs. My only concern might be that you might not be able to hear well enough to cycle safely, as they reduce noise by around 20dB. They are pretty cheap so they won't break the bank and, even if they are not suitable for cycling, you can always keep them and wear them at live gigs, etc, where they will definitely help.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 524

Yeah, I kinda need something open so I can hear the shhhhh of tires coming up behind. Anything in-ear probably isn't good. Plus, I don't like having stuff in there when I'm breathing really heavily. I have bad sinuses to begin with. – g.a.harry – 2011-06-02T17:52:37.780


You can get these band-style 'earmuff' things from outdoor wear outlets like Kathmandu (don't know if you have that where you are) —

Advection Earmuff http://www.kathmandu.com.au/productimages/LARGE/1/5848_49589_6114.jpg Earmuff 2

pointy stumps

Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 233


This was so helpful to me I'm glad I found it. I never noticed the wind problem when I biked in Chicago but this summer I rode from Chicago to Montana. I have such sensative ears, downhills and windy days just killed my ears after six hours of riding. I'm going to give some of these solutions a try. :)


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 138


Surprised Rycote dont make ear shaped wind protectors - would be a likely viral hit, choose your style: Vulcan, Cat etc....


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910



I don't reccomend the 20 dB reduction from my own personal experience, the 20 dB reduction plugs make me motion sick. They disrupted the balance in my ears so I even feel sick when they aren't in. I use the 15 dB reduction plugs and they work great.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 2 594


No advice, but I wanted to chip in anyway. I, too, spent my first day biking around downtown Toronto on Wednesday. And it was SO windy. I'm excited to quit the TTC for the summer. Cheers.


Posted 2011-06-02T13:04:39.910

Reputation: 1 083

Yeah, I had to get off a bunch of times. Thought my front wheel was going to whip me into traffic. – g.a.harry – 2011-06-03T22:43:27.003