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 are at the top of the list of reasons why people love riding motorcycles. However, if you’re an avid rider, you should be aware of a significant risk: research has connected this exhilarating hobby to permanent hearing damage.

The impact of motorcycle speed and riding duration on hearing health was examined in a comprehensive study conducted by a hearing protection manufacturer in cooperation with a notable German automobile association. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for only 15 minutes, riders who don’t use hearing protection can suffer permanent hearing damage.

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

While the notion of hearing loss may not come as a complete surprise, the main culprit could. Contrary to what many believe, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that presents the biggest hazard. Although helmets provide significant protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in safeguarding the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, such as extra padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Motorcyclists are frequently impacted by a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from regular exposure to extreme noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, which means the more you are exposed to loud noises, the worse the symptoms can become. Individuals who are coping with TTS might begin to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. However, over time, this condition can advance to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

How do other noises compare to wind volume?

To grasp the seriousness of wind noise while riding, the German study’s conclusions are illuminating. At 62 mph, the wind around a biker’s head generates noise levels reaching 95 decibels (dB). To put into context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to protect their ears if exposed to noise levels higher than 80 dB. This means that bikers traveling at this speed without ear protection are exposed to volume levels nearly 19% higher than what is regarded as safe in a work environment.

And the noise level only increases as the speed goes up. At 74 mph, wind volume can reach 98 dB, a level that can cause hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Many studies confirm that bikers are indeed at significant risk of irreversible hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

Fortunately, safeguarding your hearing while riding is both simple and effective: use earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old standard earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. These sophisticated earplugs are designed to safeguard your eardrums from high-frequency noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to get in. This means you can hear crucial sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are critical for a biker’s safety.

Moreover, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the exhilaration of riding without feeling cut off 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 utilizing filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is fueled by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and minimize the associated hazards to your hearing. The wind noise generated at high speeds can cause considerable and irreversible hearing damage in a very short time period. But bikers can protect their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply making use of a pair of quality earplugs.

Call today to find out more about hearing protection so you can keep on top of your hearing health.

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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