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 passion. But this exciting hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for individuals who ride a lot.

A comprehensive study conducted by a notable German automobile association in collaboration with a maker of hearing protection solutions examined the effect of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The results were alarming: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after just 15 minutes of riding without hearing protection at a speed of 62 mph.

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

You may not be surprised that bikers frequently suffer from loss of hearing, but you may be surprised as to why. Contrary to what many think, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that poses the biggest threat. While helmets provide significant protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, like added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Motorcyclists are frequently impacted by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which is triggered by frequent exposure to excessive noise levels. The more frequently you are exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. At first, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary decrease in hearing clarity. However, over time, this condition can progress to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how severe wind noise can get while riding. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. Workers in Europe, for example, need to use ear protection by law if the volume goes beyond 80 dB. This means that bikers riding at this speed without ear protection are exposed to volume levels nearly 19% higher than what is deemed safe in a work environment.

And the volume level only gets louder as the speed increases. Hearing damage can occur after only 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which produces wind volumes of 98 dB. Other studies corroborate these findings, suggesting that bikers are indeed at a considerable risk of hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

Luckily, it’s easy to protect your hearing with earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old standard earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. These sophisticated earplugs are manufactured to safeguard your eardrums from high-frequency noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to get in. This means you’re able to hear essential sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are vital for a biker’s safety.

Moreover, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common drawback of older protective devices. You can safeguard your ears from damaging wind noise while still experiencing the thrill of the ride by making use of filtered earplugs.

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. Significant and irreversible hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. However, with the simple 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 calling us to discuss 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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