Gilberts Audiology & Hearing Aid Center - Oklahoma

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

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

An extensive study carried out by a notable German automobile association in collaboration with a maker of hearing protection solutions evaluated the effect of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for just 15 minutes, riders who don’t make use of hearing protection can suffer permanent hearing damage.

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

While the notion of hearing loss might not be surprising, the leading culprit could. The greatest threat isn’t the raging engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. Although helmets offer considerable protection from injury during crashes, the research highlights that they fall short in safeguarding the rider’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, such as extra padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to reduce the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Frequent exposure to extreme noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS). The more frequently you are exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. Individuals who are coping with TTS may start to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

Comparing wind volume with other noise levels

To grasp the seriousness of wind noise while riding, the German study’s findings are illuminating. At 62 mph, the wind around a biker’s head produces noise levels reaching 95 decibels (dB). To put into context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers must safeguard their ears if exposed to noise levels exceeding 80 dB. Bikers are experiencing volume levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when riding at this speed.

As the speed goes up, so does the volume level. Hearing damage can take place after only 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which generates wind volumes of 98 dB. Many studies corroborate that bikers are indeed at substantial risk of irreversible hearing loss.

Safeguarding your ears

Luckily, it’s simple to protect your hearing with earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old basic earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. Filtered earplugs are a more advanced model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get in. It’s crucial for bikers to still be able to hear important sounds like human voices, sirens, and car horns.

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

While the passion for motorcycling is powered by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and mitigate the associated risks to your hearing. The wind noise generated at high speeds can cause considerable and irreversible hearing damage in a very short time. However, with the simple addition of quality earplugs, bikers can continue to enjoy their rides while protecting their long-term hearing health.

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

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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