Do you use earplugs at F1 races?

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine


Judging by the number of entries to the Kangaroo TV competition last week plenty of you are heading to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix this weekend.

So where do you all stand on the controversial question of earplugs? Are they an essential part of an F1 weekend, or do they ruin the exhilarating blast of noise from 20 F1 V8 engines?

Mechanics who work on F1 engines know the importance of wearing earplugs to protect their hearing.

But for fans who probably only get to see F1 cars in the metal once a year, and are several metres away behind high fences, are ear plugs really necessary?

I think so – and I always wear ear defenders at F1 racers. Partly for the benefit of my hearing, but also so I can plug in earphones and listen to the race coverage on the radio so I can hear what?s going on.

Which do you choose ?ǣ ear plugs, ear defenders, or naked ears?

More information on going to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone

34 comments on “Do you use earplugs at F1 races?”

  1. I use earplugs when I’m watching F1 at home, so I don’t have to listen to James Allen.

  2. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    3rd July 2008, 13:28

    i have only been to 1 grand prix, the 2002 british grand prix. i did not wear ear plugs but by the end of the day i found myself wincing as the cars came past. i am going this weekend and will definitley be buying a pair.

  3. Lol, Jack :D

    Not been to an F1 race, but I wear earplugs regularly anyway (tinnitus sufferer) and carrying a set with me all the time…I remember coming back from a Renault World Series a couple of years ago, having forgot earplugs and I was still suffering days after even using the little squidgy foamy plugs supplied!

    I’d definately recommend ear plugs to people who don’t already use them (not just for race purposes, but gigs, airshows, whatever)…invest in a £15-£40 pair…they are not visually obvious, and are quite comfortable – moreover, they do not take away from any enjoyment/experience from what you are doing and you protect your ears.

  4. I went to the Canadian Grand Prix last month and the first day we were there on Friday for Practice 2, I forgot my ear plugs in the hotel and I regretted it, that stuff is super loud. I did wear them for the next 2 days for sure. Let me just put it to you this way. I was in the Marines, and went to the firing range multiple times shooting fully auto machine guns and grenade launchers and that’s nothing compared to 20 F1 cars on the track.

  5. Some advice from someone who suffers from tinnitus.. GET EARPLUGS!! When I go to sleep in a silent room all I can hear is a background hum and it’s a nightmare. You don’t know how much damage you’ve done until its too late which makes it that much more important to get in there early with some plugs. If you really need to hear the true volume of an F1 car then take them out for a few passes and then get them back in. Besides, good earplugs take down the level of all frequencies roughly equally so you don’t loose the essence of the sound.

  6. I went to the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2007 and i did use earplugs for that race. You see, the loudest noise occurs when the cars exhausts are in your direction, and when they really floor it the noise, although orgasm inducing, is earth shatteringly loud. From my experience it depends on what part of the circuit you are at. If you are say, at Spa, on the downhil run to eau rouge (where i have also been) earplugs are a absolute must. You will be hearing nothing but high pitch noises for days after. However, if you are at, let us say, at the Hungaroring, then you can survive without earplugs because they aren’t flooring it as much.

    However, to be on the safe side, bring ear plugs just in case!

  7. Not at all!!! I’ve been to the Brazilian GP plenty of times, and never used earplugs! The noise is amazing!! I LOVE it!
    Missed the V8’s last year though… But the V10’s are fantastic. I can only dream of what it would be like to listen to the huge V12’s of yesteryear…


    thoroughly recomended, moulded to your inner ear, crystal clear sound…. none of the damage

    Seb Carter “noise, although orgasm inducing”

    LOL, noise that causes an orgasm?, shall be known from this day forth as EARGASM.

  9. As the son of an otolaryngologist I’m contractually compelled to state that hearing loss due to exposure to routinely loud noises cannot be repaired and is permanent. Also, it happens over time so you don’t notice it happening until it’s too late. So, I always wear ear plugs at races…

    That said, I also always get as close to the track as I can and watch a couple of laps w/ no plugs in. Satisfies a primal need, and I don’t have a headache at the end of the day =).

  10. Unfortunately it’s a matter of bare practicality.

    The noise is undoubtedly one of the most visceral and exciting parts of live racing, especially as it sounds so different from the televised version.

    But earache is no fun at all and it takes me around two hours to get it. So it’s earplugs for me. It’s not like they are superglued into your ears on arrival at the track, and you can never take them out again.

    I would definitely advise first-timers to take a pair along to the track with them.

  11. Diacho, V12’s don’t sound as good as V10’s, when it comes to engines a multiple of 2 makes it sound meatier.

    a multiple of 3, such as a V6 or V12 sound organised…. due to the pistons firing in line. So its like a whine instead of that huge gurgle you get from V8’s and V10’s.

  12. I use the radio, so no earplugs as such, although I love the sound of the engines, me and my husband often debate at each race which power plant is the noisy-est…last year we thought the Super Aguri, wonder who it will be this weekend?

  13. totally naked ears. honestly i love the sounds. and i sort of doubt that if after a mis spent youth of standing in front of and as close to some of the loudest rock acts to ever grace the planet a weekend of f1 engines from time to time can do any more damage.

  14. @verasaki – if you are saying “I don’t care if I hurt my hearing more than I have”, then more power to you. If you really mean what you have written you are wrong. If you can hear anything at all, you can do more damage. The tympanic membrane (your eardrum) vibrates when it is hit with sound waves, transfers through the ear bones, and up your cochlea to be changed into electrical stimuli. Excessively loud noises cause that membrane to stretch ever so slightly beyond its original taughtness. As it it is stretched, it does not return to form. Over time as the stretching increases, it loses taughtness and the ability to communicate the soundwaves through the middle ear. Just because you have _some_ hearing loss now does not mean you cannot add to it. There’s not some theoretical limit wear, having heard a noise at volume X, hearing any noise at a volume less than X can’t do any more damage.

    So, like I said, to anyone who approaches the situation knowing that hearing loss is a possibility, good on ya, but to suffer further loss due to lack of knowledge seems pointless.

  15. I suggest leaving them off for the start, then getting them in ASAP!! Once your hearing is gone – it’s gone for good.

  16. thanks for the concern mJohnHurt but when you hit middle age caution takes on a new look.

    1. Hearing loss occurs at any age man…Look up on tinnitus sufferers and you’ll know it’s like living hell for some

  17. if you have the Kangaroo TV with earphones you do not need earplugs :-)

    whether the earplugs are necessary or not depends on where you sit. i can give 2 examples:

    a) Shanghai – I always sit at the U turn area before the final corner. There are 2 grandstands facing each other and not too far away. The noise bounces there and back and gets amplified in process. It is simply impossible to survive at that spot without earplugs. I did not use earplugs on one Friday, I had serious ear pain for the rest of the weekend. And by pain I mean the pain … Not pleasant at all

    b) Sepang – there I always choose the grandstand facing the start finish line, at the first corner. Lots of open space in front of that grandstand, no probs to sit without earplugs and enjoy the F1 noise

  18. I went to practice at Silverstone last year and I regreted not having plugs by the end of the day.

    I don’t know how it changes the experience but I would recommend taking them.

  19. was at monaco two years ago and was sitting a few rows back at the start of the swimming pool complex. a pretty girl, had gone around handing out ear plugs just before the race started. i said i was ok, without earplugs. the girl just gave me a look that said, you just wait!!! sure enough, an hour later i was sitting with my finger jammed into my ringing left ear. but it does depend on the track. as i’ve been to silverstone and spa and never had a problem.

  20. Thank you, Sush!
    I’ll still keep dreaming, though. Just for historical curiosity :)

  21. It does depend where you stand. If you are next to the track, it’s probably best to wear plugs. But if you are on a hill or in an open grandstand, maybe not as much. Sensibility says that you should wear them anyway, but since I smoke and drink and play drums in a band, I don’t bother with the plugs personally. Probably stupid, but when I go home after the GP, I can’t hear a word my wife says! Bliss.

  22. Personally, I never bother with them as I love the sound! I think, why pay all that $$$ to go to a race live and then dilute one of the most important senses while you are there?

    However, I do listen to the radio commentary during the race (as you can’t hear a thing on the trackside one as the cars are so loud) so I do have earphones on during the actual race.

    But for practice & quali, forget it !

  23. I don’t have enough friends living nearby into motor racing to have ever been to one live, but I’d wear earplugs if I went to one. I grew up around and as a rock musician, the importance of hearing protection has always been stressed. I also have learned what happens when vicious feedback from a poorly grounded electric autoharp of all things causes a ringing in the ears that doesn’t go away for a month. I wish that sort of thing on no-one.

    Protect your hearing.

    Now, there’s a possibility that the sound in the upper grandstands of some venues or in distant runoffs of corners is quiet enough that I could do without earplugs, but that returns to the no-friends-into-motorsports problem.

  24. Oh, earplugs all the way, makes hardly any difference but won’t ruin your ears. Get cans if you can (geddit) and for goodness’ sake, if you don’t wear them, make sure your kids do.

    I’ve seen idiots roll up in Melbourne with tiny babies without earplugs and stupid looks on their faces when the kids are writhing in pain. Apparently your ears don’t stop developing until your 15 or something (a previous poster may be able to enlighten us) and kids really, really hate tinnitus…

  25. Quick question, guys. I need to get me some earplugs before Singapore. Are those usually sold at the stands at the racetrack, or do I have to get it ahead of time? :)

  26. Ear protection. In my case, earplugs (having hypersensitive hearing, I have a ready supply with me at all times), but if I had a radio or Kangaroo, I’d go with headphone-style protection. In fact, the reduction in certain frequencies means that I can appreciate the sound of the engine better anyway.

  27. I have been to GPs in the 70s, 80s and 90s. never wore earplugs, but I would now.

    best F1 sound has to be the V12 of the 1995 Ferrari. I still have an audio recording of a practice session at that year’s British GP, from the end of Hangar Straight. the Ferrari engine tone is richer and higher than all the others, and the extra gearshift (6 gears, IIRC) into Stowe just makes it a bit more special.

    most hearing damage? at Goodwood Festival Of Speed. I was 4ft from Scheckter’s 1979 F1 Ferrari (flat 12) as it was warmed up. my family say I’ve never heard whispers since. foolish, but it was glorious.

    but now they all sound the same to me. ulp – maybe that’s what they mean by hearing loss.

  28. WoodinTexas
    4th July 2008, 15:22

    I’m amazed at the mumber of people at F1 races without scanners. I attended the 2005 USGP (ferrari practice session), and was suprised that there were very few people with them. Noone knew of the michelin debacle. We knew of it before we left the track on Sat. On race day everyone was looking to me for answers. Not only can you scan the majority of the teams, you can also pick up all of the broadcasts from radio and tv. You are in the minority without them at a NASCAR event, where you can even scan the officials.
    All that being said, there’s nothing to match the sound and smell of the cars at a live event.

  29. I’ve only attended one major motorsports event in my life (1997 Pocono 500), but I’ve also been to a bunch of airshows, and I always take ear plugs to any event where loud engines will be operating. I guess my ears could still take a bit of a pounding at 22, but it just makes it more enjoyable to have sounds of the event, such as a racing or jet engine, dampened to a more bearable amount.

    WoodinTexas- Good point about the scanners, I know many people who bring them along at NASCAR events. Last month a met a family of F1 fans from Texas on a trip to Yankee Stadium- if your name is part of where you’re from, dose the story ring a bell at all?

  30. I went to every USGP at Indianapolis except the first one. I wore ear plugs all the time and I can’t say that my experience of the race suffered for it. The cars are still very, very loud.

  31. totally naked ears. honestly i love the sounds. and i sort of doubt that if after a mis spent youth of standing in front of and as close to some of the loudest rock acts to ever grace the planet a weekend of f1 engines from time to time can do any more damage.

  32. Ive only attended one major motorsports event in my life (1997 Pocono 500), but Ive also been to a bunch of airshows, and I always take ear plugs to any event where loud engines will be operating. I guess my ears could still take a bit of a pounding at 22, but it just makes it more enjoyable to have sounds of the event, such as a racing or jet engine, dampened to a more bearable amount.

  33. Having been to the Singapore GP. It really depended on where I was. At the closest point to the track, I didn’t spend more than 5 minutes without them when the F1/GP2 cars were running; the sound just penetrates through your ears, which is a good way to realize how loud it is! However the earplugs didn’t ruin the experience at all, and I’d say they were an absolute necessity at close range. They made the experience fully bearable while still being incredibly loud; the sound is mostly FELT rather than heard! At our seating point midway up the bay grandstand, it was possible to stay without earplugs, as I did for the whole F1 race. The safety/medical cars and the Porsche Carrera GT3 cup cars were easily tolerable even at the closest point, and I’d wager earplugs would have ruined them!

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