Why Are Motorcyclists at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Love of the open road and the thrill of speed are at the top of the list of reasons why people love to ride motorcycles. However, if you’re a passionate rider, you should be aware of a significant risk: research has connected this stimulating hobby to permanent hearing damage.

The effect of motorcycle speed and riding time on hearing health was evaluated in a comprehensive study conducted by a hearing protection manufacturer in cooperation with a notable German automobile association. The conclusions were startling: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after only 15 minutes of riding without hearing protection at a speed of 62 mph.

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

While the concept of hearing loss might not be surprising, the leading culprit could. In spite of what many believe, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that poses the biggest threat. While helmets provide considerable protection from injury during crashes, the research stresses that they fall short in safeguarding the rider’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, such as added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Bikers are frequently impacted by a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS), which results from frequent exposure to excessive noise levels. TTS is a progressive condition, meaning the more you’re exposed to loud noises, the more intense the symptoms can become. Individuals who are dealing with TTS may begin to detect that their hearing is less clear or other minor symptoms. However, over time, this condition can progress to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Comparing wind volume with other noise levels

To understand the severity of wind noise while riding, the German study’s results are illuminating. The wind noise around a rider’s head can reach 95 (dB) at 62 mph. Workers in Europe, for example, have to use hearing protection by law if the volume exceeds 80 dB. Bikers are experiencing volume levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when traveling at this speed.

As the speed goes up, so does the noise level. Hearing damage can occur after only 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which produces wind volumes of 98 dB. Other studies corroborate these findings, indicating that bikers are indeed at a considerable risk of hearing loss.

How to safeguard your hearing

The good news is, it’s easy to protect your hearing with earplugs. Hearing specialists emphatically recommend making use of filtered earplugs, which are far superior to the old, uncomfortable versions many 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 crucial for bikers to still be able to hear important sounds like human voices, sirens, and car horns.

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 harmful effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is fueled by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s essential to recognize and minimize the associated risks to your hearing. The wind noise produced at high speeds can cause substantial and permanent hearing damage in a very short time. However, with the simple addition of quality earplugs, bikers can continue to enjoy their rides while protecting their long-term hearing health.

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. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.