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

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Love of the open road and the thrill of speed top the list of reasons why people love to ride motorcycles. But this exciting 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 evaluated in a comprehensive study performed by a hearing protection manufacturer in cooperation with a notable German automobile association. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for just 15 minutes, riders who don’t make use of hearing protection can suffer irreversible hearing damage.

Why do bikers get hearing loss?

While the notion of hearing loss may not be surprising, the leading culprit might. The biggest threat isn’t the raging engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. The research highlighted that although helmets provide critical protection during crashes, they fall short in protecting a biker’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, like additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Motorcyclists are often affected by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which is triggered by regular exposure to excessive noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, meaning the more you are exposed to loud noises, the more intense the symptoms can become. At first, TTS sufferers may detect minor symptoms like a temporary reduction in hearing clarity. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

To understand the severity of wind noise while riding, the German study’s conclusions are illuminating. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. Workers in Europe, for instance, need to use ear protection by law if the volume goes beyond 80 dB. Bikers are experiencing volume levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

As the speed goes up, so does the volume level. At 74 mph, wind volume can reach 98 dB, a level that can trigger hearing damage after only 7 minutes of exposure. Other studies validate these findings, suggesting that bikers are indeed at a substantial risk of hearing loss.

Safeguarding your ears

Fortunately, safeguarding your hearing while riding is both simple and effective: use earplugs. Hearing specialists strongly recommend utilizing filtered earplugs, which are far superior to 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’re able to hear crucial sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are critical for a biker’s safety.

Bikers are also able to get the total experience of riding without feeling isolated or cut off from the outside world which can’t be said for the old traditional style. You can protect your ears from harmful wind noise while still experiencing the thrill of the ride by making use of filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is fueled by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s important to acknowledge and minimize the associated hazards to your hearing. The wind noise created at high speeds can cause substantial and irreversible hearing damage in a very short time period. However, with the basic addition of quality earplugs, bikers can continue to enjoy their rides while safeguarding their long-term hearing health.

Stay on top of your hearing health by contacting 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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