Riding bikes can be an incredibly exhilarating pastime: nothing but you and the expanse of endless open road. That being said, we all know that riding motorcycles can also be super risky: there are millions of crashes every year, even more due to riders not having the correct protective gear. Beyond wearing a proper helmet, a savvy rider invests in protective jackets and pants, along with padded boots and gloves, to ameliorate the many dangers of operating this kind of vehicle.
Unfortunately, most motorcycle owners forget to minimize an obvious but overlooked risk: hearing loss. We’re talking about the often unnoticed, silent killer of hearing – ambient wind noise, which occurs at levels of 100dB or the equivalent of average highway speeds.
Though earplugs can easily mitigate this risk, many riders eschew wearing them, citing their concern that they won’t be able to hear other more pressing noises (cars/sirens) or be “in touch” with their bikes on the road. So let’s clear up a few misconceptions about motorcycles and get on the road to protecting your hearing.
I only need to wear earplugs on a very loud bike.
Incorrect. The sound of your bike is absolutely nothing compared to the volume of wind noise, which you’re exposed to constantly and at a high-frequency. After hours on the road, it’s easy to completely forget you’re exposed to this kind of sound and that it could be causing hearing loss. Though 85-90dB of exposure for 8 hours a day is within hearing safety limits, at 115dB the safe exposure time can drop down to only 15 minutes. This means that even a single trip down a long expanse of highway can cause irreparable damage to your hearing. That’s just one trip to Vegas, baby!
But I won’t be able to hear traffic hazards or other important sounds while wearing my earplugs.
Again, incorrect. By buffering your ears from high-frequency sound (aka wind), you’re able to more easily tune into important and low-frequency sounds like cars, engine RPM, and approaching sirens. If not taken seriously, constant exposure to wind noise can create a condition called temporary threshold shift in which a rider will go partially deaf. Over time, this adds up to real, permanent hearing loss.
On the other hand.. Some riders can hear even better with their earplugs!
Yep! By protecting your hearing from TTS, you’re more energized and able to hear key low- frequency sounds even better! Many riders even report feeling more “at one” with the road and their bikes.
What kind of earplugs are best?
As long as they have an attenuation level of 26-33dB, you should be good to go! Whether you buy them in bulk packs or go the route of custom fit plugs (made by a doctor), as long as you’re doing something proactive to protect your hearing, you’ll be riding easy!