Why Are motorcycle riders 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 enthusiasm. However, if you’re a devoted rider, you should know about a substantial risk: research has linked this exhilarating hobby to permanent hearing damage.

An extensive study conducted by a prominent German automobile association in partnership with a maker of hearing protection solutions examined the impact of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The findings were alarming: bikers can suffer permanent hearing damage after only 15 minutes of riding without hearing protection at a speed of 62 mph.

What causes hearing loss in bikers?

You may not be surprised that bikers frequently suffer from loss of hearing, but you may be surprised as to why. Despite what many believe, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but rather, the wind that presents the biggest hazard. Even though helmets offer significant protection from injury during crashes, the research highlights that they fall short in safeguarding the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, such as additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to reduce the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Regular exposure to excessive noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS). The more often you are exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will become with this progressive condition. Individuals who are dealing with TTS might start to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the outcome.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how extreme wind noise can get while riding. The wind noise around a rider’s head can reach 95 (dB) at 62 mph. To put into context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers must protect their ears if exposed to noise levels higher than 80 dB. This means that bikers traveling at this speed without hearing protection are exposed to noise levels nearly 19% higher than what is deemed safe in a work environment.

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

How to protect your hearing

Thankfully, protecting your hearing while riding is both easy and effective: use earplugs. Hearing specialists strongly 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 through. It’s important for bikers to still be able to hear important sounds like human voices, emergency warning sounds, and car horns.

Bikers are also able to get the full experience of riding without feeling isolated or cut off from the external world which can’t be said for the old conventional style. You can safeguard your ears from harmful wind noise while still experiencing the thrill of the ride by using filtered earplugs.

It is possible to enjoy the excitement of speed and the freedom of the open road while still keeping your hearing safe from wind noise. Considerable and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. But bikers can protect their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply using a pair of quality earplugs.

Stay on top of your hearing health by calling 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.