Motorcycles hazardous to your hearing


Editor: Sometimes it seems like everything that’s fun turns out to be hazardous to your hearing! I guess it’s a good thing that people are working to identify all these risks. If we’re aware of the dangers, we can choose to heed the warnings or not.

The latest fun activity to be identified as hazardous to hearing is motorcycle riding. Here’s the story from the folks at

Think of your ears next time you go cruising on your motorbike. The roar of the engine and the wind noise rival the noise of a rock concert or a chainsaw, and your helmet offers no protection for your ears.

Motorcycles look great but they are not for sensitive ears. A group of scientists from the University of Florida revved up 33 different motorcycles and recorded the noise levels. Nearly half of them produced sound levels above 100 dB.

“Almost all of the motorcycles we tested reached action-level noise, which in the workplace would require ear protection,” stated Joy Colle, an audiologist and researcher.

The US government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) warns that exposure to noise in excess of 100 dB is safe for only 15 minutes.

Wind noise

Wind noise is another potential threat to the hearing of the riders. One hour at freeway speeds with unprotected hearing can cause permanent hearing loss.

An OSHA study found that a motorcycle ride at 60 kilometres per hour (37 miles per hour) with an open helmet and no hearing protection results in ambient noise levels of 75 to 90 dB, comparable to operating a leaf blower or lawn mower.

At 100 kilometres per hour (63 miles per hour) sound levels range between 103 dB and 116 dB. At those highway speeds a drive without hearing protection should be limited to less than 15 minutes.

Your helmet offers protection against bumps and even crashes but it does not keep out much of the noise. Studies have indicated that the maximum noise reduction from wearing a helmet ranges from 3 to 5 dB. An inexpensive set of earplugs reduces noise exposure by as much as 35 dB, allowing you to ride all day without the fear of hearing damage.

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