Earplugs for Biking: The Occlusion Effect & Bone Conduction

Discussion in 'Support' started by Mr_Orange_3737, Oct 31, 2020.

    1. Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      Hi. I a bit confused about wind noise, the occlusion effect, and bone conduction.

      I'm a mountain biker and went on a short ride on a very easy trail last week for the first time since my tinnitus started.

      I have a Giro Switchblade full face helmet and taped up some holes in the ear area to prevent wind noise from getting to the ear. There was still some degree of wind noise and I noticed I was able to hear my tinnitus outdoors (normally I can't) even after the short 7 minute descent. Luckily the spike was just temporary.

      This weekend, to try to improve wind noise reduction, I'm going to test my EarPeace SNR 17 / NRR 11 (musician style ones with the hole in the center). They are also advertised towards motorcyclists to reduce wind noise.

      My concern is, from reading these boards, I heard that the occlusion effect is a problem with earplugs. Is this only a problem if you are speaking or singing loudly? Would heavy breathing cause this too? And also, is the point of the hole in middle on those musician plugs (as opposed to fully sealed foam ones) to reduce some of this occlusion effect?

      The other concern is: does bone conduction (is this just vibration?) get enhanced at all through wearing earplugs?

      Since my earplugs have different filter levels, is it maybe a good idea to just use the lowest one to reach a compromise between all these different issues? I also own Earaser plugs which have an even lower NRR 5 rating.

      I also wonder, since mountain biking descents are fairly short (5-7 minutes and I'll take breaks if they're longer), is this even such a big deal compared to the kind of long sustained wind noise from road cycling or motorcycling?
       
      • Good Question Good Question x 2
    2. Matchbox

      Matchbox Member

      Location:
      BC Canada
      Tinnitus Since:
      August 2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise Induced, Prednisone (drones), Barotrauma (distortions)
      I too have noticed using ear plugs / defenders for walks ends up with me hearing my foot impacts at stupid loud levels, and may have contributed to my lower frequency reactive tinnitus which has become worse than my high frequency ones (people were telling me to get out an exercise, bad advise in the acute phase imo... maybe in a few weeks!)

      Not sure what to really do in that case except the "delicate balance" of a musicians earplug like you said... or simply no earplugs and never going outside.
       
    3. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      I did some research into this and it seems like these ear plugs do vary in occlusion.

      If you scroll down to the comment section on this article, they address the occlusion effect:

      https://producerhive.com/buyer-guides/accessories/best-earplugs-for-concerts-musicians/

      Here's some quotes:

      "As you mention, depth is a great way to combat occlusion. Therefore, if you can find a smaller device that fits deeper in your ear you should notice an improvement."

      "My last recommendation is to try custom musician earplugs. They will offer the best sound quality and significantly reduced occlusion. They fit more consistently every time you wear them as they’re made for you. The sound bore is angled based on your anatomy, so sound is directed towards your eardrum. They are made to sit deeper in your ear, past what’s called the second bend, to significantly reduce occlusion."
       
    4. Ken219
      Frustrated

      Ken219 Member

      Location:
      New York Area
      Tinnitus Since:
      Summer of 1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure?
      Rule of thumb:

      If you are wearing a product with an NRR of 27 it would deduct 10 decibels (27-7/2=10).

      There is a little know human factor. Earplugs are rated NRR (Noise Reduction Rate). NRR is the maximum dB reduction if you are a perfect human.

      Example:

      Noise level 110 dB.
      Earplugs' NRR 32.

      Simple math 110 - 32 = 78 dB. Sounds safe enough.

      But you are not a perfect human.

      The rule of thumb is, if you are wearing a product with an NRR of 32 it would deduct 12.5 decibels ((32-7)/2=10).

      Example:

      Noise level 110 dB.
      Earplugs' NRR 32.

      The true math is 110 - 12.5 = 97.5 dB. Dangerous level. Your estimated NRR may vary!
       
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    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      I just bought these over ear sound protection muffs and really noticed the footsteps yesterday. I'm having second thoughts about using the ear plugs during a bike ride.

      I have 3 different helmets (Giro Switchblade, Pro-Tec Full Cut Cert, and OSB United) where the shell plastic shell covers the ears. I'm going to experiment with blocking off the ear area to a few different degrees with foam padding and tape. Hoping that maybe having areas of the side or back open will resolve some of the occlusion.

      This thread talks about wind noise from cycling that can be around 90 dB:

      Cycling - Wind Noise
       
    6. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      Just added some padding slivers to fully seal off the front of my Pro-Tec Full Cut helmet:

      https://protecbrand.com/products/full-cut-skate-silver-flake-certified-2017

      I also fully taped off the side holes. It is basically fully windproof right now and I'm going to wear my super wide snowboard goggles too which will help guide the wind away to the sides too.

      I put this setup on and walked around stomping my feet and I feel no occlusion effect.

      I did the same thing right after with my Walker NR27 ear muffs and you can immediately feel those booming thuds going right to your ear.

      Forget about the ear plugs, I'm trying this first. Heading up the trail tomorrow or Tuesday. I'll report back.
       
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    7. Juan

      Juan Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Several causes
      Very interesting topic. I think most earplugs produce occlusion. Maybe the musician earplugs could be better at this due to that hole they have in the middle.

      In my particular case, I use foam earplugs for cycling, and feel weird after it, like I hear worse in some way... I notice a bit of occlusion but I am not particularly worried about that.

      Why I chose foam earplugs? because I am looking specifically for noise reduction due to my former severe hyperacusis and now my hyperacusis + tinnitus + hearing loss combo. I cannot really afford to be exposed to a loud motorbike without having the maximum protection, and this is provided by foam earplugs (plus earmuffs if needed).

      If you are biking in a windy area, like I do, wind will hit earmuffs and make wearing them uncomfortable, so again that's why I went for foam earplugs. It is not a perfect solution, but I am choosing between two bad scenarios: noise exposure or earplugs.
       
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    8. Jack Straw
      Balanced

      Jack Straw Member Podcast Patron Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame Advocate

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      1990s
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Infection, Acoustic Trauma
      Check out "Cat Ears" -- they can help cut down on wind noise!
       
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    9. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      Juan, ya I totally get what you mean when you're on the streets. Luckily I don't have to worry about loud mufflers and motorcycles on MTB trails.

      Jack Straw, the helmets I have pretty much block out the front in the same way. There's some slits here and there you still have to seal off.

      The noise reduction on those Cat Ears paired with that style of helmet is probably minimal compared to ear plugs though.

      With a helmet like the Pro-Tec Full Cut, my ear is pretty much fully encased like an over-ear ear protection muff. I'm guessing there's less occlusion than an ear protection muff because the surrounding encasing thickness is just thinner and there's still small areas towards the back that aren't fully sealed off. The padding is also just gently touching your face instead of being tightly clamped on like an ear muff. We'll see how it goes.
       
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    10. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      destroy all creatures. they cannot be regenerated.
      Tinnitus Since:
      1999
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      karma
      You might feel silly wearing a full-face helmet on a bicycle but they exist, they will keep you safer, and based on my experience riding a motorcycle and probably dealing with a wee bit more windnoise than y'all do given I touch 75+ MPH sometimes... solid helmet over earplugs is 100% fine for a 100 dB bike @ 70 MPH wind noise.

      I would not do it with plugs and an open face helmet, I don't think.
       
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    11. Bartoli

      Bartoli Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2009,worsened 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise
      Cat-Ears don't work well enough IMO. Or at least too erratically. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. And the protection is inversely proportional to the wind speed it seems. When biking at 12-15mph on a still day, great. When biking at 20mph into gusts of wind. Might as well not be wearing them... The more you need them the more they're not helping.

      @Mr_Orange_3737
      I have bought the little brother of your helmet, the Giro Tyrant. It's worse than my open helmet. It doesn't even matter the ears are encased , the wind going over the sides enhances the sound inside like a reverberation tank. I tried everything with that helmet. Putting the ear padding back to front on the opposite sides so it's in front of your ear, propping up the sides, wearing a skullcap underneath, taping off the holes in the sides. Nothing works.

      Sucks balls. I want to be able to bike like I used to. With my mild tinnitus, none of that noise seemed to bother me. Nor did it aggravate my tinnitus in over 7 years of 5000km/year.

      Now, with the weather, I wear a buff bandana over the ears and windfree earmuffs. Still aggravates my tinnitus sometimes, and there's days it doesn't work. Then I just have to angle my head going into a headwind which sucks. I'm literally hypervigilant about this problem for about a year and a half and I can't seem to let it go. There has to be a solution.
       
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    12. Bartoli

      Bartoli Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2009,worsened 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise
      I can tell you they're worse. Hole or not, there's a membrane so there's not a whole lot of venting going on. It's too slow to react to big changes in pressure. The mould material being silicone, it's also denser, thus worse. Maybe the triple flanged "musician" ones?
       
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    13. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      Hey Bartoli. Was going to send you a link to this. Glad you already found it. That sucks that this helmet didn't work out for you.

      With the Switchblade, I first tried going a short distance with the side holes not taped and for sure noticed noise reduction after taping it.

      During the actual ride down, I didn't really feel bothered by the wind noise to the point where it aggravated my hyperacusis (my hyperacusis has had general improvements over the last 3 weeks though). Nor did I feel any of the occlusion effect. It sort of just felt normal and I felt like I might've solved the problem.

      It's only at the very end of the trail when I stop that I noticed the tinnitus being louder than usual. I quickly removed the tape which let sound in and that helped a bit.

      I wonder if there were other contributing factors too. On the climb back up (this trail starts at the top), the cardio from the climb seemed to be aggravating the tinnitus too. Maybe the adrenaline from the ride was spiking the tinnitus. There's also just the general vibrations of mountain biking.

      I should ride the bike fast down a steep paved road just to isolate the test down to just wind.

      I wonder why the sound would be worse with the front blocked off. Have you tried taping off some of those front holes up at the top? I have those too on the switchblade and wonder if that's shooting wind into the helmet creating more sound.

      Hoping that the short duration of these mountain biking descents will help a bit with this issue. I can also just take way more breaks and try to session certain areas of the trail more.
       
    14. Bartoli

      Bartoli Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2009,worsened 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise
      Thanks man.

      I don't know if there's any sort of intricate venting system going on, but it doesn't look like the top vents have downward ducts leading into the ear, but who knows? I haven't experimented with this. Will try. I so wanted this helmet to work, because it doesn't look half bad.

      About your experience, I think the way you're riding your bike in the bike park and on the trail, I'm sure is less of an issue than prolonged exposure. My guess is you'll be okay as there's no wind other than the air moving past because of your speed, so no compounding factors. Also, the pace and directions in which you ride are constantly changing, and what comes down must go up, so most of the time you're pedaling uphill anyway.

      Of course, I understand all too well that worrying can suck the enjoyment out of riding, so I hope you find something that works for you.
       
    15. kingsfan
      Mellow

      kingsfan Member

      Location:
      Southern California
      Tinnitus Since:
      mild for years. severe on 09/17/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      turning everything up to 11
      I haven't read the whole thread as I don't have a lot of time, so I apologize if this has already been brought up or figured out.

      I also own Earpeace earplugs, and the occlusion with these is really quite terrible. I don't think they go deep enough into the ear canal. The filter on the earplug won't make any difference with occlusion since they only let air in and not out. My regular 3m foam earplugs have way less occlusion and there is no filter on those.

      I'm planning on getting some custom molded earplugs as I believe you can have the molds made to minimize occlusion. I suggest you look into that as well.
       
      • Helpful Helpful x 1
    16. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      This reviewer mentions the same thing about the EarPeace:

      The Best Silicone Earplugs For Motorcycles...


      I'm glad I looked into this before going on that trail ride.

      My ear builds up a lot of wax quickly so I'm afraid of an ear buds that go too deep in the ear.

      I might have to get into a slower style of riding like this stuff:

      Pic d'Escrein un an après avec le...
       
    17. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Mr_Orange_3737

      Mr_Orange_3737 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Earwax syringing removal
      Just finished my ride today testing my Pro Tec Full Cut setup. I first left the sides holes un-taped and rode down a downhill paved street area. I tested the wind noise by using my hand to cover up the holes. Doing this repeatedly made it clear that covering up the holes definitely reduces the wind noise. The question is whether this amount of reduction is truly significant enough.

      At the beginning of the ride, I went down this fire road section that wasn't too bumpy for just 2 minutes. I wanted to stop the bike to see what effect it had in just that short bit of time. To my frustration, I already noticed that I could hear my tinnitus outdoors (which I usually can't).

      I should explain that my tinnitus is very reactive. It gets briefly louder even after I finish showering.

      During the trail ride, nothing about the actual wind noise seemed out of the ordinary (even though I have hyperacusis). You can for sure hear wind, but it didn't irritate my hyperacusis in the way clanking dishes does.

      When hitting the actual bumpy areas, I didn't notice any occlusion effect. When I had my ear protection muffs on, the occlusion felt almost like my footsteps could be felt in my ears like a subwoofer. I can't say it was anything like that on the mountain bike. It just felt normal.

      Climbing back up, I first removed the tape covering the side holes of the helmet. That helped to reduce the tinnitus. I also tried taking the whole helmet off and that further reduced the tinnitus. So some part of the tinnitus appearing louder is from just the helmet blocking off ambient noise.

      Anyone else here mountain bike? Really curious to hear if it's caused any permanent spikes for anyone.
       

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