Why Are Motorcyclists at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently cite 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 permanent hearing damage for people who ride a lot.

The impact of motorcycle speed and riding duration on hearing health was assessed in a detailed study carried out 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 utilize hearing protection can suffer permanent hearing damage.

Why do bikers get hearing loss?

You may not be surprised that bikers often suffer from loss of hearing, but you might be surprised as to why. In spite of what many believe, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that poses the greatest threat. The research highlighted that even though helmets provide crucial protection during crashes, they fall short in safeguarding a biker’s hearing. The wind noise beating around the rider’s head isn’t decreased very much even when a helmet has extra padding, vents, or other improvements.

Bikers are frequently impacted by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from regular exposure to excessive noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, meaning the more you are exposed to loud noises, the more intense the symptoms can become. At first, TTS sufferers may detect minor symptoms like a temporary reduction in hearing clarity. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the outcome.

How do other noises compare to wind volume?

To grasp the seriousness of wind noise while riding, the German study’s findings are illuminating. The wind noise around a rider’s head can reach 95 (dB) at 62 mph. Workers in Europe, for instance, have to utilize hearing protection by law if the volume exceeds 80 dB. This means that bikers riding at this speed without ear protection are exposed to volume levels nearly 19% higher than what is regarded as safe in a work environment.

As the speed increases, so does the volume 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 confirm that bikers are indeed at considerable risk of permanent hearing loss.

Protecting your ears

Fortunately, safeguarding your hearing while riding is both easy and effective: use earplugs. Most individuals are familiar with the old basic earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. These sophisticated earplugs are manufactured to protect your eardrums from high-pitched noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to get in. It’s important for bikers to still be able to hear vital sounds like human voices, emergency warning sounds, and car horns.

Moreover, these modern earplugs let bikers enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off 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 damaging effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is motivated 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 considerable and irreversible hearing damage in a really short time period. 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 contacting 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.