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Why Boaters Need to be Aware of Hearing Health Risks

Did you know that few summer activities are as stressful on your hearing as boating? When you combine engine noise, the loud blowing of the wind and the buzzsaw-like sound you hear when you zip over waves, your ears are inundated with excess noise while you're out on the water.

In the 1970s and '80s, many jurisdictions in North America beefed up their regulations of boating noise because decibel levels of individual boats were climbing. Manufacturers had to follow these laws, which in many places  limited the maximum decibel-level output to roughly 85 dB for boats built in recent decades.

Here is an example of how loud boats can get on the water:

To further lower the impact of boat noise on hearing, there are other things careful boaters can do:

  • Fresh Air Exhaust, which can be outfitted to a motor to reduce noise by up to 75% in some boats, while also lowering greenhouse-gas output by 90%.
  • Extra cladding on the boat's walls will deaden some sounds, preventing the transmission of noise and reducing the amount of noise caused by wind and waves.
  • Cover the boat's engine hatch with a sound-absorbing material, such as rubber.
  • When traveling at high speed, make sure the boat's roof or tarp is on, if you are in a small vessel. That will shield you from the amount of wind noise you face.


When I asked our Director of Professional Practice, MJ DeSousa about her tips to protect your hearing on the water she says, "Boating is one of the most enjoyable activities in summer, but there are risks, particularly to your hearing health. Wearing proper earplugs or, better yet, high-quality, sound-dampening ear muffs, will protect you from hearing damage and ensure you stay connected to the people and activities you love."

MJ highly recommends that anyone who owns a boat or rides on one frequently get a complimentary hearing test at one our clinics across Canada.

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