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 top the list of reasons why people love riding motorcycles. But this invigorating hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for individuals who ride a lot.

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

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

You may not be surprised that bikers often suffer from loss of hearing, but you might be surprised as to why. Contrary to what many believe, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that presents the greatest threat. Even though helmets offer significant protection from injury during crashes, the research highlights that they fall short in protecting the rider’s hearing. The wind noise beating around the rider’s head isn’t decreased much even when a helmet has added padding, vents, or other modifications.

Bikers are frequently affected by a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from regular exposure to excessive noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, which means the more you’re exposed to loud noises, the more intense the symptoms can get. Individuals who are coping with TTS might start to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. But irreversible hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

How do other noises compare to wind volume?

To grasp the severity 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). For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers must safeguard their ears if exposed to volume 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 deemed safe in a work environment.

And the volume level only gets louder as the speed increases. At 74 mph, wind noise can reach 98 dB, a level that can trigger hearing damage after only 7 minutes of exposure. Other studies validate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a significant risk of hearing loss.

How to protect your hearing

Luckily, it’s easy to safeguard your hearing with earplugs. Hearing specialists emphatically recommend making use of filtered earplugs, which are far superior to the old, uncomfortable versions most people are familiar with. Filtered earplugs are a more sophisticated model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get in. This means you’re able to hear crucial sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are vital for a biker’s safety.

Furthermore, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the exhilaration of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common drawback 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 powered by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and minimize the associated risks 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 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 contacting us to talk about 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.