motorcycle ear plugs
Whenever a discussion about wearing Motorcycle Ear Plugs while riding a motorcycles comes up, there are a lot of opinions about whether or not doing it is a good idea. We’ve noticed that, like so many other elements of this sport, the use of ear plugs while riding tends to be a controversial topic; many riders swear by using ear plugs, but many others refuse to do it, wanting to be as connected their bike and traffic conditions as possible to enhance their safety. The truth is, however, that most riders on both sides of the debate are under-informed about what the real threats to your hearing are while riding, and how hearing protection actually works.
So to clear up some confusion, and make sure you have the right information to make your decision, we’ve put together a few myths and facts about using hearing protection while riding. Most importantly, we focus on the often unnoticed, “silent killer” of hearing while operating a motorcycle. It’s actually not your exhaust or traffic, like most people think; it’s ambient wind noise, which occurs at levels of well over 100dB at highway speeds! Find out how it can destroy your hearing, and what to do about it, by reading on.
Common Myths about Hearing Protection
Myth #1: You can’t hear traffic hazards, sirens, your bike, or other important sounds while wearing Motorcycle Ear Plugs.
Wearing Motorcycle Ear Plugs does block sound, but the way it actually affects your hearing is counter-intuitive.
The real killer of hearing, and what we are trying to prevent while riding, is wind noise; the continuous, high-frequency sound created as you rush through the air at riding speeds. What we want to hear are low-frequency sounds, things like cars around us, engine RPM, and approaching sirens.
Because wind noise beats on your ears non-stop while you ride, it creates a condition called temporary threshold shift (also referred to as TTS), which is a temporary hearing loss that results from continuous over-exposure to sound (we’ve all experienced this at a concert, races, when operating machinery, etc.) In other words, you go partially deaf for a while after an extended period of riding.
That temporary deafness is even more dangerous to your safety on the road than wearing Motorcycle Ear Plugs, because it affects all frequencies of hearing. Proper hearing protection prevents that from happening, and cuts high-frequency wind noise while still allowing important low-frequency sounds to be heard.
Myth #2: You only need to wear ear plugs if you have a loud bike.
Naturally, loud bikes are more likely to create hearing damage than quiet bikes, when revving or accelerating for example. But once again, the biggest danger to your hearing while riding is wind noise, and it piles up a lot faster than you think. Whether you ride a thunderous V-twin or a stock 250, the sound of your bike is miniscule when compared to the volume of wind noise, which is usually around the 100-110dB range at highway speeds. It is a constant, high-frequency sound; the type that is the biggest threat to your hearing, as you tend to not notice it slowly beating your eardrums to death.
Myth #3: You don’t need to wear earplugs if you wear a full-face helmet.
True, wearing a full-face helmet does cut exposure to sound, but to degree that is not significant with respect to hearing damage. Check out these numbers: different studies show a reduction in the range of 5-10dB when wearing a full-face helmet; but at 100dB-plus levels found at normal highway speeds, this is still well within the territory of permanent hearing damage. Some helmets flow air so well, the wind noise can actually be almost equal to that of not using a helmet at all!
Myth #4: A windshield/fairings will cut wind noise enough.
Much like the difference between full-face and half-helmets, there is a reduction in sound level, but not to a significant degree. Depending on the style of windshield or fairings, and the height of the rider and his body position, the resulting turbulence may mean there is hardly any reduction in noise at all.