That ringing in your ears and headache after long rides are just a part of riding, right?

What?

Sorry, I can't hear you.

I rode without earplugs from the time I was 16 until I turned 28. I had never really even tried them.

I rode loud bikes too. Harleys, old CBs with open pipes; hell, I had a weirdo two-stroke chopper that I couldn't start until I was already on the street or my neighbors would all throw a fit.

And you guessed it, I wasn't wearing an Arai Signet-X — no, I was wearing my uncle's old open-face Hustler 200, with Santa María de Guadalupe stitched inside the lid. It did only slightly more than nothing to block out wind and noise.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend in the office who is a few years older than me offered some advice after suffering a fate of premature hearing loss, for which I seemed inevitably destined:

"Take it from me, I never used to wear them," he said. "Get a good pair, and you'll never look back."

He was 100 percent right. I immediately grabbed a pair of cheap yellow foam earplugs (about 14 cents per pair) and rode home with them. It was quieter, but my Bluetooth communications system was too muffled and they were a little bulky in my ears.

The next day, I found a smaller pair of 3M E-A-R earplugs (about $5 per pair, cheaper in bulk) that look like mushrooms, with a yellow tip and blue handle to shove them in your ear canal. These fit better, blocked out more low-frequency noise than high, and were easy to get in and out of my ear with the little arm. I was sold.

I think I was concerned with being able to hear the little ticks and clicks of my older bikes and know if anything was going wrong while riding them, which makes sense. But honestly, I can hear most of the smaller noises I need to just fine; it's just the hum of the wind and idle droning that are cut down.

My Sena Bluetooth system still pumps loud enough to hear clearly in my helmet, and I really sacrifice nothing by wearing these. I took a little convincing, but like he said, I'm not looking back.

You may want a pair of reusable earplugs that you can put in for every ride, or disposable ones that you can replace everyday. Preferences differ, as determined by a quick poll around the office. Brody likes Alpine MotoSafe ($34.95–$37.95), I like Vibes ($23.99), many others have given up on reusables and returned to disposable plugs.

Whichever earplugs suit your needs, I recommend experimenting and trying out the options. I had no idea how much I was damaging my ears or how well good plugs could work until I took the time to try. Now everything has been made crystal clear, thanks to a friend who cared. Pass it on!

This piece originally appeared at MotorcycleCruiser.com.