woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently mention the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the primary reasons behind their enthusiasm. However, if you’re an avid rider, you should know about a substantial risk: research has connected this exhilarating hobby to irreversible hearing damage.

An in depth study conducted by a prominent German automobile association in collaboration with a manufacturer of hearing protection solutions examined the effect of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The results were alarming: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after just 15 minutes of riding without earplugs at a speed of 62 mph.

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

While the idea of hearing loss might not be surprising, the main culprit could. The biggest threat isn’t the roaring engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. While helmets provide significant protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, such as extra padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Bikers are frequently impacted by a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from frequent exposure to extreme noise levels. The more often you are exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will become with this progressive condition. People who are dealing with TTS might start to notice that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. However, over time, this condition can progress to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

To understand the seriousness of wind noise while riding, the German study’s findings are illuminating. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. To put into 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 riding 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 trigger hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Other studies validate these findings, suggesting that bikers are indeed at a significant risk of hearing loss.

Protecting your ears

Fortunately, protecting your hearing while riding is both easy and effective: use earplugs. Hearing specialists strongly recommend making use of filtered earplugs, which are far superior to the old, uncomfortable versions most people are familiar with. Filtered earplugs are a more advanced model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get through. This means you can hear crucial sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are vital for a biker’s safety.

Furthermore, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common drawback of older protective devices. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to enjoy the thrill of the ride while protecting your hearing from the damaging effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is fueled by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s crucial to acknowledge and mitigate the associated risks to your hearing. The wind noise produced at high speeds can cause significant and permanent hearing damage in a very short time period. But bikers can safeguard their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply using a set of quality earplugs.

Give us a call today to find out more about hearing protection so you can keep on top of your hearing health.

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