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All opportunities for great riding comes risk. One loud noise not typically thought of as a cause for hearing loss is that of motorcycle riding. Not only is the motorcycle itself loud, but the wind noise at highway speeds can generate more than 100 dB of noise, which is roughly the equivalent of having a chainsaw operating at close range. This is a factor that many motorcycle riders don’t think of when they hit the roads or trails.
Roughly 10% of all Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss that affects their ability to understand a normal dialogue with another person or a group of people. The most common reason for such hearing loss is excessive exposure to loud noises, either over a prolonged period of time or via one-time exposure to a very loud noise, like an explosion or a gunshot, or motorcycles.
The wind noise when riding a motorcycle is a function of air turbulence at high-speed. Motorcycle riders without helmets will experience that same noise at a level 10 times greater than riders wearing helmets. At this alarming rate, hearing loss can begin in as soon as 30 minutes.
While wearing a helmet, is certainly better than riding without one, in terms of hearing loss, helmet design cannot eliminate this wind noise although it can reduce it somewhat.
The distressing thing about all that is that motorcycle hearing loss is 100% preventable if proper safety precautions are taken. On the other end of the spectrum, noise-induced hearing loss like motorcycle-riding, is also 100% permanent and irreversible. Once hearing has been damaged in this way, it cannot be repaired by any current means, although of course hearing loss is treatable.
There are two things which can really help to alleviate hearing loss among motorcycles riders. The first is one of the very simplest precautions imaginable – the wearing of earplugs beneath the helmet. This has the happy effect of excluding most of the unwanted wind turbulence at ear level, while not interfering with the rider’s awareness of traffic situations.
The second desirable action which should be taken is to proliferate education among motorcycle riders that damage to the ears and hearing is real and cumulative. While body protection and helmets are definite safety issues, hearing loss is a major cause of concern that has been largely overlooked.
Whether you’re a motorcyle or your loved one is, its important to be aware of the risks of hearing loss and the steps which can be taken to help prevent it.