There are too many motorcycle riders in this country who do not wear earplugs when they ride.
While hearing loss may seem good because it dampens our spouses’ constant nagging, it is not as cheerful as that. Hearing damage and loss also brings on irritability, negativism and anger, fatigue, tension, stress, depression.
What do physicians say?
Hearing damage begins with exposure to sound levels above 85 dB (decibels) for prolonged periods. As an illustration, heavy traffic or a busy restaurant produce sound levels from 80 to 89 dB. And these are the usual things we face daily.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers should not be exposed to sound levels above 85 dB in an eight-hour work day. NIOSH also specified that exposure to 100 dB for just 15 minutes is enough to damage one’s hearing.
Unfortunately, hearing damage is progressive for the sufferer to notice until it is too late.
How about when we are riding?
The real enemy is wind noise which is channeled through the helmet. It is that high frequency whistling and roaring noise that damages your hearing.
Riding at city speeds between 40 to 80 km/h will produce sound levels as high as 80 to 89 dB.
However, sound levels start to creep up to 100 dB at 100 km/h. Consequently, riding a non-fairing bike at 150 km/h increases the sound level to 110 dB.
The difference of 10 dB may not seem a lot but the measurement is not linear: If it takes 15 minutes at 100 dB to damage hearing, it takes less than 2 minutes at 110 dB.
What if I wear a “quiet” helmet?
Despite SHOEI's commitment to produce the most relatively quiet helmets, truth is, there are no “quite” helmets in the market, definitely not as quiet as it damps out all the sounds around you. It is so because helmets must not impede upon the wearer's hearing as per regulations.
Read here: Why are helmets not completely quiet?
Wearing a full-face usually reduces wind noise by 10 to 15 dB, but you are still at the threshold of between 85 to 90 dB at 100 km/h. Open face helmets are obviously louder.
So, what’s the solution?
Besides saving you from hearing damage and loss, you’ll be less fatigued when riding, especially when you’re touring because you are not struggling against wind noise. So, ear protection is not just for track days and racing.
Additionally, you are not distracted and overwhelmed by wind noise into thinking you’re riding too fast. That way, you can concentrate on riding rather than thinking you are over-speeding especially when you approaching corners.
Do you see why professional racers such as Marc Marquez and his peers wear earplugs? Wayne Rainey said many decades ago that he rides faster and smoother while wearing earplugs.
There are many types in the market from cheap foam to neoprene to specialized silicone ones.
A pair of yellow-coloured 3M TaperFit 2 earplugs attenuates (reduces) noise levels by up to 32 dB. They are available in pharmacies nationwide. But these are too quiet for road use and are instead well suited for track use.
The best are earplugs specialised for motorcycle riding. These earplugs employ special filters that block out the whistling and booming wind noise, but allows speech, engine note, communication system and surrounding sounds through. They are expensive but are superbly comfortable. As such, you do not have to worry about not being able to hear anything.
Specialised earplugs are not cheap, of course, but bear in mind that hearing aids are a lot more expensive!