Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts often mention the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the driving force behind their enthusiasm. However, if you’re an avid rider, you should know about a substantial risk: research has connected this exhilarating hobby to irreversible hearing damage.

An in depth study conducted by a notable German automobile association in partnership with a manufacturer of hearing protection solutions evaluated the impact of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The conclusions were alarming: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after only 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 often suffer from loss of hearing, but you might be surprised as to why. In spite of what many believe, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but rather, the wind that poses the biggest hazard. While helmets offer significant protection from injury during crashes, the research highlights that they fall short in safeguarding the rider’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, like added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to reduce the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Motorcyclists are frequently affected by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which is triggered by regular exposure to extreme noise levels. The more frequently you’re exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. Initially, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary decrease in hearing clarity. But irreversible hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

Comparing wind noise with other noise levels

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how extreme wind noise can get while riding. At 62 mph, the wind around a biker’s head produces noise levels reaching 95 decibels (dB). Workers in Europe, for instance, need to utilize hearing protection by law if the volume goes beyond 80 dB. Bikers are enduring volume levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

As the speed increases, so does the noise level. At 74 mph, wind volume can reach 98 dB, a level that can cause hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Other studies validate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a substantial risk of hearing loss.

Protecting your ears

The good news is, it’s easy to protect your hearing with earplugs. Hearing specialists emphatically recommend utilizing filtered earplugs, which are far better than the old, uncomfortable versions many are familiar with. These sophisticated earplugs are manufactured to safeguard your eardrums from high-pitched 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.

Bikers are also able to get the total experience of riding without feeling isolated or cut off from the external world which can’t be said for the old traditional style. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to experience the thrill of the ride while safeguarding your hearing from the harmful effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is powered by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s essential to acknowledge and mitigate the associated risks to your hearing. Significant and permanent 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 protecting their long-term hearing health.

Stay on top of your hearing health by contacting 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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