Should motorcyclists worry about their hearing?

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Should motorcyclists worry about their hearing?

Many people love to ride on their motorcycles. Responsible drivers use helmets, long sleeve jackets, long pants and closed toed shoes to protect themselves while riding. What some people may fail to think about, however, is protecting their ears from possible hearing loss.

The majority of motorcycle engines produce sounds around 100 decibels (dB). According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), exposure to sounds exceeding 100 dB for more than 15 minutes can cause permanent hearing damage. Meaning that if you ride your bike for more than 15 minutes, you are exposing yourself to permanent hearing loss.

Amazingly, research shows that wind noise is actually the main cause of noise induced hearing loss for motorcyclists. Driving at highway speeds causes wind noise as loud as a chainsaw, which has been measured at 107 to 116 dB. And while that increase in loudness, from 100 to 110 dB, may not sound like much, it significantly influences how long you can expose your ears without damaging your hearing. At 110 dB, maximum exposure before risking hearing loss is less than two minutes!

Signs that your joy riding may be causing hearing loss include: ringing in your ears (tinnitus), difficulty understanding speech – especially in background noise, and plugged ears.  With repeated exposure, these symptoms may change from temporary, inconsistent annoyances to permanent, quality of life issues. Thankfully, preventing noise induced hearing loss is fairly easy.

Some bikers may believe that by wearing a full, snug-fitting helmet, their ears are protected. But the reality is, helmets do not do much to block noise. Studies indicate they only reduce noise by about three to five dB. To protect your hearing , a set of over-the-counter earplugs inserted correctly can reduce noise exposure by about 35 dB. If these feel uncomfortable, a set of custom noise plugs can provide a tighter seal with increased comfort. Custom plugs can come in different sizes and colors for maximum comfort and style.  Because they are a custom product, they typically take about ten days to be made.


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