Motorcycle Riders Have a Higher Risk of 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 driving force behind their passion. But this invigorating hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for individuals who ride a lot.

An in depth study done by a prominent German automobile association in partnership with a maker of hearing protection solutions evaluated the effect of riding time and motorcycle speed on hearing health. Alarmingly, at speeds of 62 or higher, for just 15 minutes, riders who don’t make use of hearing protection can suffer irreversible hearing damage.

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

You may not be surprised that bikers frequently suffer from hearing loss, but you might be surprised as to why. Despite what many believe, it’s not the motorcycle’s roaring engine but rather, the wind that presents the greatest hazard. The research highlighted that even though helmets provide crucial protection during accidents, they fall short in safeguarding a biker’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, like added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to mitigate the wind noise whirling around the rider.

Bikers are often impacted by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from frequent exposure to extreme noise levels. The more frequently you are exposed to loud noise, the more intense your TTS symptoms will be with this progressive condition. At first, TTS sufferers might detect minor symptoms like a temporary decrease in hearing clarity. But irreversible hearing loss can, over time, be the outcome.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

To comprehend the seriousness 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 protect their ears if exposed to noise levels higher than 80 dB. Bikers are experiencing noise levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

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

How to protect your hearing

Fortunately, protecting your hearing while riding is both simple and effective: use earplugs. Most individuals are familiar with the old standard earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. Filtered earplugs are a more advanced model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get in. This means you can 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 sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common disadvantage of older protective devices. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to experience the thrill of the ride while protecting your hearing from the damaging effects of wind noise.

It is possible to enjoy the thrill of speed and the freedom of the open road while still keeping your ears safe from wind noise. Significant and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. 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 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.