Why Are motorcycle riders at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

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 enthusiasm. But this exhilarating hobby comes at a high risk of irreversible hearing damage for people who ride a lot.

An extensive study conducted by a prominent German automobile association in collaboration with a manufacturer of hearing protection solutions examined the impact of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for just 15 minutes, riders who don’t use hearing protection can suffer permanent hearing damage.

Why do bikers get hearing loss?

While the idea of hearing loss may not be surprising, the leading culprit could. In spite of what many think, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but rather, the wind that presents the biggest hazard. Although helmets provide considerable protection from injury during crashes, the research highlights that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, such as additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise whirling around the rider.

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

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

To comprehend 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. For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to safeguard their ears if exposed to noise levels higher than 80 dB. This means that bikers riding at this speed without hearing protection are exposed to volume levels nearly 19% higher than what is regarded as safe in a work environment.

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

How to safeguard your hearing

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

Moreover, these modern earplugs let bikers enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common downside of older protective devices. You can protect your ears from harmful wind noise while still experiencing the thrill of the ride by utilizing filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is fueled by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to acknowledge and mitigate the associated risks to your hearing. Significant and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. But bikers can safeguard 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.

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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