woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Love of the open road and the thrill of speed top the list of reasons why people love riding motorcycles. However, if you’re a devoted rider, you should know about a significant risk: research has connected this thrilling hobby to irreversible hearing damage.

The effect of motorcycle speed and riding time on hearing health was examined in a detailed study performed by a hearing protection maker in cooperation with a prominent German automobile association. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for only 15 minutes, riders who don’t make use of hearing protection can suffer irreversible hearing damage.

What causes hearing loss in bikers?

You may not be surprised that bikers frequently suffer from loss of hearing, but you may be surprised as to why. The biggest threat isn’t the raging engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. While helmets provide considerable protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, like extra padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Bikers are often affected by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from regular exposure to excessive noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, which means the more you are exposed to loud noises, the more intense the symptoms can get. Initially, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary reduction in hearing clarity. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

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. To put into context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to safeguard their ears if exposed to volume levels exceeding 80 dB. This means that bikers traveling 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 volume level. At 74 mph, wind noise can reach 98 dB, a level that can cause hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Other studies corroborate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a significant risk of hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

Thankfully, safeguarding your hearing while riding is both easy and effective: use earplugs. Hearing specialists emphatically recommend using filtered earplugs, which are far better than the old, uncomfortable versions most people are familiar with. 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 vital sounds like human voices, emergency warning sounds, and car horns.

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 conventional style. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to experience the thrill of the ride while protecting your hearing from the damaging effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is motivated 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 significant and irreversible hearing damage in a really short time. But bikers can safeguard their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply making use of a set of quality earplugs.

Stay on top of your hearing health by contacting us to talk about 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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