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Preventing Motorcycle-Related Hearing Loss
There are many hazards associated with motorcycle riding, but many people forget about the hazards to their ears. Noises over 100 decibels (dB) can cause hearing damage, and the average motorcycle produces noises only slightly below that. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers to provide hearing protection when exposed to noise levels above 85 dB, yet motorcyclists neglect to do this for themselves. Preventing motorcycle-related hearing loss is easy and inexpensive, and every rider should invest in hearing protection.
Where Does Motorcycle Noise Generate?
Motorcycles differ in their noise levels. The big roadster is probably going to have a louder exhaust than a sport bike. However, noise that causes hearing loss is not always directly from the bike. Rather, it is because of the wind.
Wind-noise isn’t that bad at low speeds, but once a motorcyclist hits the highway that changes. Roadway noise and wind within the helmet can reach dB levels of 110 or more. This can definitely cause long-term hearing damage.
Preventing Motorcycle-Related Hearing Loss
You may think that a helmet would provide hearing protection, but it actually does not. Many offer eye protection, but sound waves still enter the helmet. That is why it is important to invest in hearing protection in order to prevent motorcycle-related hearing loss. This means you need earplugs. There are many earplugs on the market, and your choice will be dependent on many factors.
Factors Involved in Earplug Choice
When you start researching earplugs, you’ll find out that you have many options. In fact, it may be difficult to decide without doing a little research. Here is a link to one review from FortNine that really gives you an idea of the basics. According to them, there are five things to consider when choosing earplugs, and they are:
- Hearing protection
- Staying power
- Special features
Hearing protection will be communicated in “noise reduction rating,” or NRR. A highly-rated hearing protection may offer 33 dB of noise reduction. However, there is a sweet spot when it comes to hearing protection. You don’t want to hear so much road and motor noise, but you still want to be able to hear sirens from emergency vehicles.
In the review from FortNine, wax earplugs that have to be “squished” and shaped into your ears seemed to produce too much noise reduction. The reviewer deemed them to be less safe. Foam earplugs did well, but the more expensive motorsport option seemed to be the best. This is because the particular brand, NoNoise, had a ceramic filter to block high dB sounds while allowing the wearer to hear safe sounds.
Of course, comfort is always an issue when riding a motorcycle. From foot pegs to handlebars, riders are always trying to get the most comfortable ride. With earplugs, there is no 100% comfortable option. When pressing moldable wax into the ear, it can create pressure. Foam earplugs aren’t terribly uncomfortable, but they can also create pressure, as the foam expands into the ear. NoNoise earplugs have to be wetted prior to inserting into the ear, but they are relatively comfortable.
Hearing protection and comfort are not an issue if you cannot get your earplugs to stay in your ear. For this, no type of earplug was perfect. However, the shape of motorsport earplugs and foam earplugs with a “t-shape” prevented them from going too deep into the ear. Wax could sometimes come off with the helmet. The best advice from the FortNine review was to get foam earplugs with the cord connecting the two earplugs, so if one fell out, it wouldn’t hit the floor.
Most people don’t share earplugs for a good reason. The ear canal is typically waxy, and sharing wax is just gross. Another problem with wax and earplugs is keeping them clean. Foam earplugs actually had a lot of potential to trap bacteria. This is why they’re cheap, which means they’re disposable. Ear wax could actually mix in with wax earplugs, and they became very dirty after extended periods of wax. For motorcyclists, the best option was motorsport earplugs that can be washed and stored in their carrying case. Worth the $30 investment.
Lastly, there are many special features available for earplugs. Namely, bluetooth and speaker capabilities. These were not reviewed on the FortNine video, but they do exist. Other earplugs, such as NoNoise earplugs, have special features such as the filter that reduces high dB noise while allowing necessary noises to be heard.
Earbuds are Not Hearing Protection
One thing to remember when choosing hearing protection is that regular earbuds that you use while at work or in your home are not suitable hearing protection. If they aren’t designed as hearing protection, it isn’t recommended that you use them. If you must have technology, invest in a good pair of earplugs with bluetooth, and you’ll get the best of both worlds – convenience and hearing protection. Again, you’ll want to watch out for playing music so loud that you cannot hear other things on the road necessary to keep you safe.
Hearing Loss Is More than an Inconvenience
Most people care about their hearing, but they also take it for granted. Once it happens, it is an inconvenience, but it is also much more than that. It means you will not correctly hear what people are saying and make errors when “filling in the blanks.” You and the people talking to you will suffer frustration with your inability to properly communicate. It will be more difficult to adapt to your impairment than it would, for example, someone who had suffered hearing impairments since birth.
Additionally, the dampening of one of your senses increases your safety risks on the road and in life. It would be like wearing hearing protection that is too good. You need to be able to hear some things in order to avoid hazards or emergency vehicles.
Obviously, people who are hearing impaired are still able to drive or ride motorcycles. But motorcycles are inherently dangerous because they lack the protection of a vehicle enclosure. Every sense that you can use while riding increases your safety.
Restoring Hearing Loss
Finally, once hearing loss occurs, it is usually permanent. You may be able to get hearing aids. There are some new cutting edge medical procedures that may be capable of restoring the small hairs in your cochlea that help to amplify sounds. For the most part, hearing loss is permanent. Prevention of hearing loss is a much better method for maintaining your ability to hear than treating the loss. As the old adage goes, the best offense is a good defense.
Driving Defensively Includes Preventing Motorcycle-Related Hearing Loss
Motorcycle-related hearing loss is preventable, and it is one of many things you should be doing to protect your body while riding. Many people think about wearing a helmet or a good riding jacket to protect their bodies, but they forget that their ears are exposed to high dB sounds even when wearing a helmet. Investing in hearing protection is part of driving defensively and keeping your body in the same shape it was prior to riding.
If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident and would like to speak to an experienced lawyer regarding a personal injury lawsuit, contact the Law Offices of Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz for a no-obligation consultation.