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Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently cite the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the driving force behind their enthusiasm. But this exciting hobby comes at a high risk of irreversible hearing damage for individuals who ride a lot.

An in depth study carried out by a prominent German automobile association in partnership with a maker of hearing protection solutions evaluated the effect of riding duration and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The findings were startling: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after only 15 minutes of riding without hearing protection at a speed of 62 mph.

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

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

Bikers are frequently impacted by a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS), which is triggered by regular exposure to excessive noise levels. The more often you’re exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will become with this progressive condition. Individuals who are coping with TTS may begin to notice that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

To comprehend the severity of wind noise while riding, the German study’s findings are illuminating. At 62 mph, the wind around a biker’s head produces noise levels reaching 95 decibels (dB). For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to protect their ears if exposed to volume levels higher than 80 dB. Bikers are enduring noise levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

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

How to safeguard your hearing

Thankfully, safeguarding your hearing while riding is both simple and effective: use earplugs. Hearing specialists strongly recommend using filtered earplugs, which are far superior to the old, uncomfortable versions most people are familiar with. These advanced earplugs are designed to safeguard your eardrums from high-frequency noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to get in. It’s important for bikers to still be able to hear important sounds like human voices, emergency warning sounds, and car horns.

Moreover, these modern earplugs let bikers enjoy the exhilaration of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common downside 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 motivated by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s crucial to recognize and mitigate the associated hazards to your hearing. The wind noise produced at high speeds can cause significant 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 protecting their long-term hearing health.

Stay on top of your hearing health by calling 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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