5 Things You Didn’t Know About Motorcycle Hearing Damage

BY Road Rider MCA - August 17th, 2015

Your friends wear earplugs when they ride, but the wind noise has never bothered you, so you don’t bother with earplugs, right? Well, it’s time to change your ways before it’s too late.

Here are 5 things you might not know about motorcycle hearing damage:

1. If you ride, permanent hearing damage will occur if you don’t take steps to prevent it.

When you’re on the bike, you can be exposed to wind noise levels of up to 116 decibels (dB), but OSHA noise standards indicate there is a high probability of hearing loss after just fifteen minutes of exposure to 115 dB.

2. A little noise for a long time can be worse than a lot of noise for a short amount of time.

Damage caused by noise is compounded as the duration of exposure increases, and hours of exposure to a lower dB level can be as damaging as exposure to a much higher level (like a jet engine or a jackhammer) for a much shorter period of time. Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise not only causes fatigue, but it also causes a state that is known as Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS). TTS is a temporary drop in your hearing level caused by extended exposure to noise, like when sounds are dulled for an hour or so after a long ride or a concert. Repeated incidences of TTS will result in permanent hearing damage.

3. Hearing damage doesn’t only affect riders who wear open-face helmets.

While full-face helmets obviously provide the best protection from wind noise, they still produce wind noise in excess of 100 dB at highway speeds. It won’t take as long as if you were wearing an open-face helmet, but hearing damage will happen. OSHA’s allowable exposure times are halved at every five dB increase starting at 90 dB. For example, 95 dB is safe for no more than 4 hours, 100 dB is safe for two hours, 105 for 1 hour, and so on. When you’re riding at 70 mph, studies have shown that no matter what brand and what kind of helmet you’re wearing, you’re likely exposing yourself to at least 100 db of noise.

4. You can protect your ears by spending a few bucks on a box of earplugs.

Foam earplugs work well, are convenient to use, and they’re cheap. Carry a small container in your jacket pocket and stash some under your seat. Once you start riding with earplugs, you’ll hate going without. You can find a variety of inexpensive earplugs at Road Rider.

Custom-made earplugs are shaped for your very own unique ear structure, so they stay put in the correct position and block more unwanted noise. Consider upgrading to a pair of custom plugs when you have the opportunity–you can get custom earplugs made while you wait at major motorcycle events like World Superbike or MotoGP.

5. You don’t have to give up your tunes to protect your hearing.

If you like to listen to music, headset systems like those made by Sena and Scala amplify music to levels that are more than loud enough to be heard with earplugs on. So pop in your earplugs and turn on your tunes–you’ll hear the good stuff, and muffle the damaging wind noise. You might even find you feel less fatigued over the course of a day of riding when you aren’t subjected to the nonstop noise pollution.




“Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.” National Institute On Deafness And Other Communication Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss.

“Motorcyclists Are At Special Risk For Hearing Loss.” Industrial Paramedical Services, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.hearingtestlabs.com/motorcycle.htm.




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