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 driving force behind their enthusiasm. However, if you’re a devoted rider, you should know about a substantial risk: research has connected this exhilarating hobby to permanent hearing damage.

A comprehensive study conducted by a notable German automobile association in collaboration with a maker of hearing protection solutions evaluated the impact of riding duration and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The findings were startling: bikers can suffer permanent hearing damage after just 15 minutes of riding without earplugs at a speed of 62 mph.

What causes hearing loss in bikers?

While the notion of hearing loss may not come as a complete surprise, the leading culprit might. In spite of what many think, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that poses the greatest threat. The research emphasized that although helmets provide critical protection during accidents, they fall short in protecting a biker’s hearing. The wind noise whipping around the rider’s head isn’t reduced very much even when a helmet has added padding, vents, or other improvements.

Regular exposure to extreme noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition called temporary threshold shift (TTS). TTS is a progressive condition, meaning the more you’re exposed to loud noises, the worse the symptoms can become. People who are dealing with TTS may begin to notice that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. But permanent hearing loss can, over time, be the result.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how severe wind noise can get while riding. At 62 mph, the wind around a biker’s head creates 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 volume levels nearly 19% higher than what is considered safe in a work environment.

And the volume level only increases as the speed goes up. Hearing damage can occur after only 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which generates wind volumes of 98 dB. Many studies confirm that bikers are indeed at substantial risk of irreversible hearing loss.

Safeguarding your ears

Luckily, it’s simple to protect your hearing with earplugs. Hearing specialists emphatically recommend using filtered earplugs, which are far better than the old, uncomfortable versions many are familiar with. Filtered earplugs are a more advanced model that filters out high frequencies like wind while allowing lower frequencies to get through. This means you can hear essential sounds like sirens, horns, and human speech, which are critical for a biker’s safety.

Moreover, these modern earplugs let bikers enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common drawback of older protective devices. You can protect your ears from damaging wind noise while still enjoying the thrill of the ride by making use of filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is powered by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and mitigate the associated risks to your hearing. Substantial and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. But bikers can safeguard their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply utilizing a set of quality earplugs.

Give us a call today to learn more about hearing protection so you can stay on top of your hearing health.

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.