woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts often mention the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the primary reasons behind their passion. But this invigorating hobby comes at a high risk of irreversible hearing damage for people who ride a lot.

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

What causes hearing loss in bikers?

While the concept of hearing loss may not come as a complete surprise, the main culprit could. The greatest threat isn’t the raging engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. The research highlighted that even though helmets provide crucial protection during accidents, they fall short in protecting a biker’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, such as added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Regular exposure to excessive noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS). The more often you’re exposed to loud noise, the more intense your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. People who are coping with TTS may begin to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. However, over time, this condition can progress to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

To understand the severity of wind noise while riding, the German study’s results 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 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 increases, so does the volume level. Hearing damage can occur after just 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which produces wind volumes of 98 dB. Other studies validate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a substantial risk of hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

Luckily, 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 sophisticated 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 critical for a biker’s safety.

Furthermore, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common downside of older protective devices. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to enjoy the thrill of the ride while safeguarding your hearing from the harmful 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 hazards to your hearing. The wind noise produced at high speeds can cause substantial and permanent hearing damage in a very short time period. But bikers can protect their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply using a pair of quality earplugs.

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

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