Why Are Motorcycle Riders at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently cite the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the primary reasons behind their enthusiasm. But this exhilarating hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for people who ride a lot.

The impact of motorcycle speed and riding time on hearing health was examined in a detailed study performed by a hearing protection manufacturer in collaboration with a notable German automobile association. The conclusions were startling: bikers can suffer permanent hearing damage after just 15 minutes of riding without hearing protection at a speed of 62 mph.

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

While the notion of hearing loss might not come as a complete surprise, the primary culprit might. The greatest threat isn’t the roaring engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. Although helmets offer considerable protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. The wind noise beating around the rider’s head isn’t reduced much even when a helmet has added padding, vents, or other improvements.

Regular exposure to extreme noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS). The more often you are exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. At first, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary decrease in hearing clarity. But irreversible hearing loss can, over time, be the outcome.

Comparing wind volume with other noise levels

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how extreme wind noise can get while riding. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. Workers in Europe, for example, have to use hearing protection by law if the volume goes beyond 80 dB. This means that bikers riding at this speed without hearing protection are exposed to noise levels nearly 19% higher than what is considered safe in a work environment.

As the speed goes up, so does the noise level. At 74 mph, wind noise 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.

How to safeguard your hearing

The good news is, it’s easy to safeguard 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 through. This means you’re able to hear essential sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are vital for a biker’s safety.

Furthermore, these modern earplugs let bikers enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common disadvantage of older protective devices. You can protect your ears from harmful wind noise while still enjoying the thrill of the ride by using filtered earplugs.

It is possible to enjoy the excitement of speed and the freedom of the open road while still keeping your ears safe from wind noise. The wind noise generated at high speeds can cause significant and irreversible hearing damage in a really short time period. But bikers can safeguard their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply making use of a pair of quality earplugs.

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

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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