Why Are Motorcycle Riders at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts often cite the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the driving force behind their passion. However, if you’re a devoted rider, you should be aware of a substantial risk: research has linked this thrilling hobby to permanent hearing damage.

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

What causes hearing loss in motorcyclists?

While the idea of hearing loss may not come as a complete surprise, the main culprit might. The greatest threat isn’t the roaring engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. The research emphasized that even though helmets offer critical protection during accidents, they fall short in protecting a biker’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, such as additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise whirling around the rider.

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

Comparing wind volume 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 generates noise levels reaching 95 decibels (dB). For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to protect their ears if exposed to noise levels exceeding 80 dB. This means that bikers traveling at this speed without ear protection are exposed to noise levels nearly 19% higher than what is regarded as safe in a work environment.

As the speed goes up, so does the volume level. Hearing damage can take place after just 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which generates wind volumes of 98 dB. Other studies corroborate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a substantial risk of hearing loss.

How to safeguard your hearing

Fortunately, protecting your hearing while riding is both easy and effective: use earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old basic earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. These sophisticated earplugs are designed to protect your eardrums from high-frequency noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to penetrate. This means you’re able to hear essential sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are critical 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. You can protect your ears from harmful wind noise while still enjoying the thrill of the ride by using filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is powered by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to acknowledge and minimize the associated hazards to your hearing. The wind noise generated at high speeds can cause considerable and permanent hearing damage in a really short time period. But bikers can safeguard their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply utilizing a pair of quality earplugs.

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.