Why You Should Be Wearing Earplugs On Your Next Motorcycle Ride

Why You Should Be Wearing Earplugs On Your Next Motorcycle Ride

Growing up, when you got your first motorcycle, your mom probably wasn’t on board. And, if she was, it was with one stipulation. You wear a helmet. However, we are willing to bet that she wasn’t all that concerned about your ears, and you probably weren’t either. Loud noises are cool; rock concerts, sports games, guns, all of which can provide one thrill or another. Unfortunately, these loud hobbies, along with motorcycling, can prove to be seriously harmful to your hearing if you aren’t careful. Here at Dennis Kirk, riding safely is our number one priority, and that includes protecting your ears. Think we’re being dramatic? Just hear us out, while you still can.

What You Need To Know About The Decibel Scale

Before we start spitting numbers at you, telling you how harmful all of those decibels are, we thought that we should give a brief explanation of the decibel scale; just enough information to gain some perspective when we hit you with a number. So, here we go. The decibel scale starts at zero, a level that we know as silence. This scale is actually a logarithmic scale, meaning that it goes up in powers of ten. So what exactly does that mean? It means that a ten decibel increase makes a sound ten times more intense, and twice as loud. Here’s an example. A quiet conversation might be 40 decibels. If they increase their volume to 50 decibels they would be talking twice as loud. (NOT 25% louder, which would be the case on a linear scale.)

 

How Many Decibels is Too Many?

Now that you have an admittedly rough understanding of the decibel scale, how many decibels is too many? Well, according to OSHA, hearing damage first becomes possible around 85 decibels. 85 decibels for more than 8 hours can result in hearing loss. You’re probably thinking “Well that’s fine, I don’t ride for 8 hours a day” But, you are also likely not riding at 85 decibels. A motorcycle, cruising along at 60 mph, can produce a full 100 decibels! At this level, it’ll only take 15 minutes to cause hearing damage. If you are feeling bold and decide to pick up the pace to 95 mph, you had better not do it for more than 2 minutes! This speed can produce 100 decibels, which causes permanent damage if sustained for more than 120 seconds. The threshold for hearing damage comes from the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health).

 

Helmets: Great At Protecting Your Melon, Not Your Hearing

Your helmet, while it might help, is not enough to be considered a solution. Helmets tend to decrease sound anywhere from 5 to 10 decibels, meaning that freeway riding will still leave you within the threshold for hearing damage, depending on how fast you ride and how long you ride.

 

Engine Noise

You might be thinking that this isn’t an issue for you because of your exceptionally quiet bike. Obviously, engine noise is relevant to the equation, but the main culprit for hearing damage when riding is actually the sound of the wind passing by. That whooshing sound that never goes away is more likely to be the issue, meaning your quiet bike doesn’t mean that you aren’t at risk.

 

Earplugs: A Safe Solution

You might have concerns that motorcycle earplugs are dangerous, making it difficult to hear horns or sirens. These low frequency sounds will actually be easier to hear if you remove the high frequency white noise of the wind. This makes them a perfectly safe option for riders! Just make sure that earplugs are legal wherever you ride.

 

Noise Fatigue

Noise fatigue, the idea that you can become exhausted from extended exposure to loud noises, is a real thing! This is another problem that can be solved by adding ear plugs to your riding ensemble. You’ll walk away less tired, and with better hearing, thanks to your earplugs.

 

We hope that you’ll take our advice and grab some earplugs. The benefits are numerous, and the downsides are minimal, limited to the money spent on earplugs. But, that money is well worth it, you will not regret it. If you have any tips or personal preferences when it comes to motorcycle ear plugs, leave them in the comments below for your fellow rider! Thank you for reading.  

8 comments

I have been wearing hearing protection almost religiously since a nearly damaging my hearing on a 14 hour ride to northern Manitoba in 1992. Don’t take long rides without it. The riding is more enjoyable when you can still hear at the end of the day.

No thanks I want to hear what’s around me. Sirens, tires skidding, horns. I’m 71 been riding harley’s for over 50 years. I can still hear just fine. To each their own.

That is a 100% lie sir. There is no physical way you can hear just fine after THAT much riding. I clal absolute bs. They make ear plugs that cut down on wind noise but still let you hear things around. Don’t think all ear plugs are created the same. They aren’t. Why are Harley riders such fools sometimes? I see it all the time with gear at the shop i work at. $40k bike but doesn’t buy a $70 brain bucket because it’s “too much” or makes you look like a “dick head”. Guess what? Not wearing a helmet already makes you one. The car that pulls out in front of you doesn’t care what bike you’re riding it’s just gonna happen.

I’m 71 too …..on my 10th bike and agree with you. also often ride with shorts and no helmet. Haven’t been down in 10 bikes and 56 years of riding. Nobody getting out of this deal alive anyway! Have fun and just be careful.

I’ve been writing and wearing earplugs religiously since the late 80s I can’t stand noise I have a stock pipe and it would be unimaginable to ride anywhere other than around the block with no earplugs in I also put water on the tips to get a tighter fit on the foam style ear plugs.

Don’t overlook the benefits of heightened sensitivity of your peripheral vision. We gave 5 senses. When one or more are not functioning, your other senses work to take up the slack. Hearing protection works. 48 years of personal riding experience has taught me the value of hearing conservation. With earplugs in and due to the tempered effects of wind noise, your peripheral vision becomes more acute. This is simply an beneficial byproduct of preventing NIHL (Noise Induced Hearing Loss). Additionally the reduced fatigue on your nervous system may well save yours and your passenger’s life. Nerve fatigue from wind noise can add up to an additional half second or more in your response time. That delayed reaction time, traveling at 65+mph, can easily equate to 50 to 100 feet additional travel before reaching for the brakes.

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