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.
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, 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.