Motorcycling, to no one's surprise, isn't good for your ears. What may stun people, though, is that it's not the loud roar of the engine that leaves riders most vulnerable.
Our Director of Professional Practice MJ DeSousa says, "Wind noise is a not-so silent threat to the healthy hearing of motorcyclists. It's not unusual for motorcycle riders to experience decibel levels that exceed 100 and that is well beyond the levels that are considered safe."
Studies have shown that humans can be exposed to 85 decibels for up to 8 consecutive hours and not incur any hearing damage; however, when the decibel level tops 100 then the amount of time you have before your hearing can be compromised is reduced to 15 minutes.
At highway speeds, motorcyclists will experience wind noise that exceeds 100 decibels. The implications are clear for those who ride.
The editors of webBikeWorld.com write, "We strongly suggest wearing high quality, correctly fitted earplugs whenever you ride a motorcycle. This can help minimize the risk of hearing loss, reduce stress and make the riding experience more pleasant. The noise that is generated is always loud enough to be dangerous to human health and can easily cause permanent hearing damage."
That publication is not optimistic about bikers' chances of reducing their risk, even with the most expensive and well-padded helmets. "There are basically only two types of motorcycle helmets: loud and louder," the website says.
Adding a separate cotton or silk helmet liner to the use of properly fitted, high-quality earplugs will help lower the risk of hearing loss, experts say. Other factors that can help bikers dampen wind noise are a strong and tall windshield, and riding at moderate speeds.
Here is an amateur video highlighting the importance of hearing protection while riding:
We would like to remind motorcyclists to ride safe and get their hearing tested. Connect Hearing, Canada's largest network of hearing clinics, offers complimentary hearing tests at all of its facilities across the country.