Why Are motorcycle riders at an Increased Risk for Hearing Loss?

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Love of the open road and the thrill of speed top the list of reasons why individuals love riding motorcycles. However, if you’re a devoted rider, you should be aware of a significant risk: research has linked this thrilling hobby to permanent hearing damage.

An extensive study carried out by a notable German automobile association in partnership with a manufacturer of hearing protection solutions examined the impact of riding duration and motorcycle speed on hearing health. The findings were alarming: bikers can suffer irreversible hearing damage after just 15 minutes of riding without earplugs at a speed of 62 mph.

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

You might not be surprised that bikers frequently suffer from hearing loss, but you may be surprised as to why. Contrary to what many believe, it isn’t the motorcycle’s roaring engine but instead, the wind that poses the biggest hazard. The research emphasized that although helmets provide crucial protection during crashes, they fall short in protecting a biker’s hearing. Enhancements to the helmet, like added padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to reduce the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Regular exposure to excessive noise levels often leaves bikers with a condition known as temporary threshold shift (TTS). The more frequently you’re exposed to loud noise, the worse your TTS symptoms will become with this progressive condition. People who are dealing with TTS might 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 noise with other noise levels

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how extreme wind noise can get while riding. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. For context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to safeguard 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 riding at this speed.

As the speed increases, so does the noise level. Hearing damage can take place after only 7 minutes of riding at 74 mph which generates wind volumes of 98 dB. Many studies confirm that bikers are indeed at considerable risk of permanent hearing loss.

Protecting your ears

Luckily, it’s simple to safeguard your hearing with earplugs. Most people are familiar with the old basic earplugs, but hearing specialists recommend the filtered versions instead. These advanced earplugs are manufactured to safeguard your eardrums from high-frequency noises like wind while still allowing lower frequency sounds to penetrate. It’s crucial for bikers to still be able to hear important sounds like human voices, emergency warning sounds, and car horns.

Moreover, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the sensations of riding without feeling cut off or numb, a common drawback of older protective devices. With filtered earplugs, you can continue to experience the thrill of the ride while safeguarding your hearing from the damaging effects of wind noise.

While the passion for motorcycling is motivated by the allure of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and mitigate the associated hazards to your hearing. Considerable and permanent hearing damage can be caused by the noise of wind at high speeds. But bikers can protect their long-term hearing while still enjoying the ride by simply making use of 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.