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Old 21 Jan 2021
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Ear infections and tinnitus

Ear infection and tinnitus
Been riding for about 9 months now.

And after the first 3 months I started getting ear pain and some tinnitus.

I thought my ear protection wasn't good enough. So I bought a better helmet a windshield and started using double air plugs (foamies and wax ear plugs on top).

This mostly protected my hearing, and I did not have tinnitus after riding. However, this week I got a double ear infection, and it's very likely it's related to my hearing protection. It has been an incredibly painful week, and it's so bad that I might even give up riding.

Has anyone found good solutions for hearing protection? Something that protects you well enough from tinnitus on long 8 hour rides, but doesn't give you ear infections?
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Old 21 Jan 2021
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Unfortunately poking things into your ears is always going to carry an infection risk. But not using ear protection will damage your hearing. If you have tinnitus now, you've probably got it for life. Best bet is probably to use fitted ear plugs and regularly disinfect them. I'd say discard disposable ones every time, but that's not really practical.
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Old 21 Jan 2021
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The one shot disposable ones (I use Howard Leight Laser Lite's) will certainly cut down on ambient noise. I have tinnitus in one ear (from a gunshot, not bike riding) and as a noisy day on a bike makes it much worse for a few days afterwards I tend to use them all the time. There's a whole range of different sorts of earplugs from hyper expensive custom fit down to really cheap cut from a roll foam and you need to find what works for you. In general though I've never found the custom fit ones worth the money and the 'umbrella' type (see below) are close to useless for bike riding (IMHO). The foam ones are annoying to fit but generally give the best results. Bear in mind that when your ears are blocked from receiving sound they do tend to respond by amplifying what sound they get. That can make tinnitus worse for a few minutes when you take the plugs out and your hearing seems supercharged.

Re ear pain, there's a few ways that could happen in my experience. Firstly there's irritation from the earplug material that could lead to some kind of allergic response or localised irritation. That's why I tend to use the branded ones rather than the 1000 for £1 ones on eBay.

Second, some of the non foam type have handles that stick out from your ear.
They look like this: https://uk.rs-online.com/web/p/ear-p...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
They're 'ok' for normal use but under a crash helmet the handles can put pressure on your ear and that can lead to a lot of pain. Plus they itch and move in your ear giving variable levels of sound reduction. Not for me any more

Thirdly - remember these things cut sound by blocking your ear. Block it completely (like some of them do) and you can't accommodate changes in altitude. Going up isn't so bad but coming down can be very painful.

If your ear pain comes from an actual infection it's time to get the medical profession involved. You don't want to leave it - ear pain is right up there with toothache and can have long term consequences.
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Old 21 Jan 2021
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I started to get tinnitus when I was about 20 when I only used ear protection at work and did not pay any attention to how quiet my helmet was, I then started wearing ear plugs on the bike and caught it before the damage was permanent.
After that I used ear plugs on the bike and at work for nearly forty years without a problem, this was inserting them in the morning before my commute and apart from tea breaks they stayed in until I got home again, I found the yellow barrel shaped ones suited my ears pretty well and have never had custom made ones.
I am not sure how much noise you need to stop to prevent tinnitus but in over 40 years in an engineering workshop and more than half a million miles on a bike, not to mention quite a few rock concerts I believe the slight deterioration in my hearing is more age related than anything so it could be that you are simply pushing too much into your ears which is what is causing the problem.
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Old 21 Jan 2021
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Originally Posted by backofbeyond View Post
If your ear pain comes from an actual infection it's time to get the medical profession involved. You don't want to leave it - ear pain is right up there with toothache and can have long term consequences.
This ^^^.

Infectious stuff is always getting into ears. Even if not introduced by earplugs, cotton swabs, or bacteria-laden water, your ear canal provides a pretty good growth medium for whatever happens to be floating by. Normally, bacteria come and go without causing any trouble, just like elsewhere on your skin.

For whatever reason, I've had a lot of ear infections beginning in childhood. The pain can ramp up to the worst I've ever experienced, and the consequences (for me) have included quite a few eardrum ruptures and significant loss of hearing. I carry antibiotics and decongestants (pseudoephedrine, more difficult to find than it used to be, is the best by far), and I'm prepared to get medical attention if self-treatment doesn't work. I never let water stay in my ear canal after showering or swimming, and I try very hard not to immerse in polluted water--a very bad experience diving in Lake Malawi taught me that last lesson.

I wouldn't blame your earplugs, although it's possible they contribute; maybe you reuse them, maybe they trap moisture or sweat. In any case, if you're prone to infections it's going to be important to figure this out. I use the Howard Leights mentioned above, since they work pretty well without sealing the ear completely. Typical noise reduction runs close to 30db, which is about the same as a good pair of earmuff-style hearing protectors.

Structural damage due to overexposure to noise is permanent. I wish I'd taken better care back when I wasn't inclined to act with intelligence, i.e., until I was 35 or so.

Hope that's helpful.

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Old 22 Jan 2021
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Thank you all for your replies tips.I ordered some super soft ear plugs. Of the type you recommended.

I have also looked into using earmuffs:


A bit expensive. And it might harm the crash protection of the helmet. But might be worth it for the comfort and noice isolation.
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Old 22 Jan 2021
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I dont know much about tinnitus, but I know a bit about outer ear infections as that is something I have been bothered with quite a bit up through my life.

If you really have an ear infection you will have to see a doctor who can deal with that. My experience is that a GP is not always competent to handle this, I often see a ear/nose/throat speacialist.

Outer ear infection can be both bacterial and or fungus. In my case it used to be both bacterial and fungus, but lately it has been more fungus infections. In any case if you have an outer ear infection your outer ear canal will need to be cleaned using a small suction tube and then the doc usually apply something antibacterial/antifungus cream in your ear. This treatment might need to be repeated a few times until the infection wears off.

To prevent a new infection it can be a good idea to use a tad of anti fungus or antibacterial cream on the earplugs you use just before you insert them. Maybe not everyday, that will create too much «stuff» in your ear, but maybe every second day or every third day. I have also used a tad of Hydrocortison cream (a mild anti inflammatory cream) on the earplugs every second day or so when I insert them into the ear. And that was an advise I got from a ear specialist doc. It works like a charm for me....
In the end everything will be fine. If its not fine its not the end....

Last edited by Snakeboy; 23 Jan 2021 at 12:26.
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