Custom formed and fitted riding ear wear
Hearing protection is critical for motorcycle riders. Wind noise and exhaust sounds combine to erode our hearing until we are straining to hear conversations in a noisy restaurant or asking our significant other to repeat dialogue at the movies. Loud pipes may save lives, but they destroy your ears.
Disposable foam earplugs are a good place to start for hearing protection, but lack speakers for those of us who listen to music or use helmet communicators while we ride. Helmet speakers just add more volume to an already noisy helmet environment.
InEarz Sport seeks to solve this problem by making custom sound deadening earpieces for every environment from musicians to motorcyclists. While they sell one size fits all earpieces, their reputation is centered around custom fittings like their flagship UH-1 model. Retailing for $330.00, this is their go-to solution for bikers (or anyone) wanting to kill background noise while still listening to music or helmet communicators. Each set is made to an individual’s ear shape with high quality speaker inserts and optional shorter cord lengths for motorcycle use and is the model we tested here.
Dave’s custom UH-1 earpieces came with a shortened cord to make motorcycle use easier.
InEarz had a vendor’s booth at the Laguna Seca round of MotoAmerica in 2022, ready to make custom fittings. Dave Wensveen volunteered to be our tester and cracked open his wallet for a custom fitting. The process began with InEarz rep Mark Hood filling Dave’s ears with Smurf blue goo to create a mold.
InEarz rep Mark Hood fills Dave’s ears to make molds for the earbuds.
Custom earpieces were delivered a few weeks later, just in time for our next tour of the Oregon and Washington coast as we piled on miles for last year’s sport touring tire shootout. Immediately upon putting on his helmet, Dave noticed ear pain. His custom ear pieces were occupying the vacant space in his ear canal which didn’t allow for ear squish when putting on or taking off his helmet. Watching Dave don or doff his Shoei RF-1200 was excruciating just to watch as he would take a deep breath, pull the chinstraps apart as far as he could, then slowly rotate his helmet. After taking off his lid, I could see the redness in his ears. After a few miserable stints with the custom UH-1, Dave went back to his, and my, go-to earpiece solution, the Etymotic ER2XR.
Dave’s custom InEarz UH-1 earpieces as they first arrived.
For many years, we both have been using the Etymotic ER2XR. While not cheap, we are big fans of their sound reproduction and modular design that allows for parts replacement and multiple options for ear tips for optimum sound deadening and a snug fit. After many painful attempts with his In-Earz, Dave went back to his Etymotics.
A call was made to Mark Hood to explain the problem. Mark was helpful, willing to work with Dave and even paid to have the earpieces shipped back to Florida where material was removed to lessen volume and hopefully reduce the agony.
It didn’t work.
Even after shaving material from his earpieces, the ear pain still made it impossible for Dave to wear his UH-1s. So the earpieces were shipped back to Florida a second time, this time with Dave paying for shipping, for more material removal. Still, the problem persisted. Dave could not use them in his helmet without prohibitive discomfort.
Now, one year after getting his custom fitting, Dave packed his UH-1s as we went to Laguna Seca for the 2023 round of the MotoAmerica race series. At the booth, Dave related his story where the attendant suggested removing material from his helmet instead of the earpiece. Reluctantly, Dave handed over his expensive Shoei RF-1200 as the attendant used his Dremel to clear away foam.
One year after the process started, Dave returns to the InEarz booth seeking a resolution. Here, the attendant checks for hot spots in the earpieces.
It didn’t work. While the UH-1s hurt less, they were still too uncomfortable to use. For the rest of our journey home from California to Washington, the UH-1s remained in their box as he used his old reliable Etymotics. The cord on the UH-1 set is currently motorcycle shortened, so Dave is going to have the cord lengthened (converted to Bluetooth) so he could at least use them for mowing the lawn. When asked for a refund, InEarz said that since they are custom made, they are not eligible for a refund.
Customer service throughout the year long struggle was superb, but despite their best efforts, InEarz was not able to get Dave’s custom pieces to achieve their design goal of fitting comfortably under his helmet. As Dave and I debriefed before this article, we discussed whether the problem was his inner ear shape, the design of the ear pieces, his snug fitting Shoei or a combination of all three.
Dave explains his year long struggle. A few moments after this photo, Dave gave over his helmet for some shaving. Removing helmet foam slightly reduced his ear pain, but the earbuds remained unusable for any length of time.
Dave’s experience might not reflect the general population. His inner ear shape and helmet fit might not be the same as yours so keep this in mind. Also, since Dave and I put in long days on the bike, in excess of five to six hours a day for weeks at a time, our usage is different. InEarz might work for riders who use them for shorter rides. And they clearly have many satisfied customers who get a perfect fit. Please remember, InEarz is family owned and their excellent customer service was willing to repeatedly work with Dave to attempt to resolve his situation.
However, Dave’s costly earpieces will now be relegated to lawn mowing duty and he will contrite to use his Etymotic ER2XR set to protect his valuable hearing while out motorcycle riding. Your experience may differ, so below is the web link to all of InEarz offerings.