People Who Ride Motorcycles Have an Increased Risk of Hearing Loss

woman on motorcycle with helmet on.

Motorcycle enthusiasts frequently mention the thrill of speed and the love for the open road as the primary reasons behind their enthusiasm. But this exhilarating hobby comes at a high risk of permanent hearing damage for people who ride a lot.

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

Why do motorcycle riders get hearing loss?

While the idea of hearing loss may not be surprising, the primary culprit might. The greatest threat isn’t the raging engine, contrary to the common belief, it’s really the wind. The research highlighted that although helmets provide crucial protection during crashes, they fall short in safeguarding a biker’s hearing. Improvements to the helmet, like additional padding, vents, or weather stripping, do little to decrease the wind noise swirling around the rider.

Frequent 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 more intense your TTS symptoms will become with this progressive condition. At first, TTS sufferers may notice minor symptoms like a temporary reduction in hearing clarity. However, over time, this condition can advance to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

How do other noises compare to wind noise?

The German study sheds a lot of light on just how extreme wind noise can be while riding. The wind noise around a rider’s head can be as high as 95 (dB) at 62 mph. To put into context, European Union (EU) law mandates that workers need to safeguard their ears if exposed to volume levels exceeding 80 dB. Bikers are enduring volume levels up to 19% higher than safe working environments when riding at this speed.

As the speed goes up, so does the noise level. At 74 mph, wind noise can reach 98 dB, a level that can cause hearing damage after just 7 minutes of exposure. Many studies corroborate that bikers are indeed at significant risk of permanent hearing loss.

How to safeguard your hearing

Thankfully, safeguarding 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. Filtered earplugs are a more sophisticated 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 vital for a biker’s safety.

Furthermore, these modern earplugs allow bikers to enjoy the exhilaration of riding without feeling isolated or numb, a common disadvantage of older protective devices. You can protect your ears from harmful wind noise while still enjoying the thrill of the ride by making use of filtered earplugs.

While the passion for motorcycling is motivated by the appeal of speed and freedom, it’s important to recognize and minimize the associated hazards to your hearing. The wind noise created at high speeds can cause considerable and irreversible hearing damage in a very short time. But bikers can safeguard 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 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.