woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts often mention the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the driving force behind their passion. But this invigorating hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for individuals who ride a lot.

The impact of motorcycle speed and riding time on hearing health was examined in a comprehensive study carried out by a hearing protection manufacturer in collaboration with a notable German automobile association. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for only 15 minutes, riders who don’t use hearing protection can suffer irreversible hearing damage.

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

While the notion of hearing loss may not be surprising, the leading culprit could. In spite of what many believe, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but rather, the wind that poses the greatest hazard. The research highlighted that although helmets provide critical protection during crashes, they fall short in safeguarding a biker’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, like additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Bikers are often impacted by a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from frequent exposure to extreme noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, meaning the more you are exposed to loud noises, the worse the symptoms can become. Initially, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary decrease in hearing clarity. But irreversible hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

To comprehend the seriousness of wind noise while riding, the German study’s conclusions are illuminating. The wind noise around a rider’s head can reach 95 (dB) at 62 mph. For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to protect their ears if exposed to noise levels higher than 80 dB. Bikers are enduring noise levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

As the speed increases, so does the volume level. At 74 mph, wind volume can reach 98 dB, a level that can cause hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Many studies corroborate that bikers are indeed at substantial risk of permanent hearing loss.

How to safeguard your hearing

Fortunately, protecting your hearing while riding is both simple and effective: use earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old basic earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. Filtered earplugs are a more sophisticated model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get in. This means you’re able to hear essential sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are vital for a biker’s safety.

Moreover, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common disadvantage of older protective devices. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to experience the thrill of the ride while safeguarding your hearing from the harmful effects of wind noise.

It is possible to enjoy the excitement of speed and the freedom of the open road while still keeping your hearing safe from wind noise. Substantial and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. But bikers can protect their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply using a set of quality earplugs.

Stay on top of your hearing health by calling us to talk about hearing protection.

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