How to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders | Big Ear
1.1 How to prevent Tinnitus in Motorcycle Riders
How to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders is not complicated at all, it just a matter of choice.
Having just completed the BMW MOA Rally in Lebanon Tn this year I was a presenter in 2 seminars talking about the effects of wind and road noise and the hearing loss were all experiencing.
It was a great turn out more than 50 riders per seminar so I was able to get some great poll numbers.
More than 70% of people in this group had ringing in their ears and 75% had hearing damage. More than 20 people already had hearing aids.
Most people in the room were shocked to see how many people in one group are suffering.
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1.2 Why It Is So Important To Wear Hearing Protection When Motorcycle Riding
There’s no greater pleasure on a warm summer day than jumping on your motorcycle and taking off down the road – the free and easy feeling that comes with gliding down the blacktop on your bike is hard to match. Before the ride begins, responsible riders are decked out from head to toe in their protective gear: they don their boots, helmets, gloves, glasses, and visor at the very least. But is that all the safety equipment you need for motorcycle riding?
A growing body of evidence suggests that many riders are missing out on a critical piece of protective gear. Earplugs, a steadily increasing number of studies are showing that hearing protection is an essential component of responsible motorcycle operation and long-term exposure to loud noise from the wind or the motorcycle engine is known to damage your hearing and create tinnitus in motorcycle riders.
The noise can be especially harmful given the length of exposure typical of a motorcycle ride. A long ride can last hours, and the hearing loss experienced by any rider is greatly amplified by lengthy exposure time.
There are a number of sources of loud noise on any given motorcycle ride, and for this reason, researches and enthusiasts are beginning to come around the idea that wearing earplugs while riding a motorcycle is more than a matter of personal comfort rather it is a necessity to an individuals lifetime health.
“Contrary to what you might expect, the most dangerous source of loud noise during a motorcycle ride isn’t the motorcycle engine itself – it’s the wind rushing past your ears.
At speeds as slow as 35 miles per hour.” writes A. Gregg Moore of EI-1 Environmental, Health, and Safety Solutions, “Wind noise can top 90 to 100 decibels, far exceeding the sound of the bike itself.” Glenn Hood, a hearing protection expert with Big Ear, reports that” A cruise down the freeway at 80 miles per hour can generate as much as 118 decibels of noise in a rider’s ears, and the best motorcycle helmet only reduces the dB level by 4dB.
This is the equivalent of operating a chainsaw, leaf blower or snowmobile, and OSHA recommends limiting personal exposure to noise at that level to under 10 minutes per day.” “With the wrong helmet, Hood adds, that noise can be amplified to even greater levels: a helmet with many cuts or openings can amplify low-frequency noise to up to 118 decibels, the equivalent of a factory producing automobiles.”
Noise from turbulent air entering the helmet at the chin and neck area grows quickly when trapped, and Hood cautions that most helmets on the market are to some extent hazardous to your hearing and thus creating tinnitus in motorcycle riders.
The only way to be certain that your hearing is protected from wind noise is by using some type of hearing protection while riding. Wearing earplugs will also help diminish the effects of another potent source of the noise: the motorcycle itself. Even without the wind, many bikes are more than capable of exceeding the 85-decibel threshold that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends hearing protection above.
Motorcycle engines can easily produce 100 decibels when accelerating, and that is without modifications. Add in free-flowing exhaust components, and custom intakes and that number will grow very quickly as well. Some competition dirtbike engines are capable of producing 140 decibels – nearly enough sound pressure to cause nausea with prolonged exposure.
When a person is exposed to sound at these levels for extended periods of time, they will suffer from the noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus and once your hearing is lost it is gone forever. “The reason for the permanent nature of hearing damage is in the mechanics of the inner ear”, says otolaryngologist and motorcycle enthusiast Dr. Phil Scheinberg. “The delicate hairs inside the ear vibrate in response to changes in air pressure, and these vibrations are processed to become what we experience as sound.
When these hair cells are damaged, one first loses the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, and this may also result in a condition called tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears in the absence of any actual sound.” According to Dr. Johnson, the same exposure levels that cause hearing loss can also cause a host of other symptoms including elevated heart rate, fatigue, and anxiety. It’s not hard to see that there is a strong case for using motorcycle hearing protection.
In response to this, custom earplugs for motorcycle riders are available. They work by blocking sound waves from entering the ear canal and causing damage. When wearing a helmet, it’s easy to feel a false sense of security where your hearing is concerned, but all of that air rushing into the openings between your head and the helmet itself creates turbulence that eventually finds its way into your ears.
1.3 By using ear plugs for motorcycle riding, you effectively plug the ear, preventing this low-frequency sound pressure from causing you irreparable damage.
Choosing the best earplugs for motorcycle riding is a matter of personal choice and comfort with different varieties of earplugs. Regular store-bought earplugs like the type used by construction workers, are an excellent place to start if you’re not convinced that custom ear plugs for motorcycle riders are worth the investment.
There are many one size fit all earplugs to try and understand the benefits of wearing hearing protection. There are many different sizes, shapes, and colors available, and they’re meant to be comfortable – OSHA requires that construction workers on many sites wear them for the entirety of their eight to ten-hour shift, so a healthy amount of work has gone into producing them with comfortable material and fit characteristics.
These come in the form of small foam lozenges which are rolled between the fingers and compressed, the user slips them a short distance into the outside of the ear canal, and they re-expand (circumferentially) to seal off the ear without pushing wax or debris into the ear.
You will find that these one-size-fits-all offerings are uncomfortable and in some cases unwearable when you wear a helmet and the pressure from the helmet rides up an down on your ears as you are ridding. Now companies offer custom-molded earplugs, and this is usually the best solution. They offer a rider a consistent hearing reduction ride and no pressure while wearing a helmet and don’t move out of place when the helmet moves up and down.
You also have the option of having hearing protection first and the ability to still hear your communication or music through the intra-helmet speakers better with a set of custom motorcycle ear plugs in. For the tech-savvy among us, they are also available as a custom-molded, wireless Bluetooth unit. The bottom line is If you lose your hearing – and you will after enough time riding without earplugs – you may not be eligible for your motorcycle license when advanced age or other circumstances require you take a driver’s medical.
At that stage, there’s no going back, and you’ll wish you’d taken steps to protect your hearing sooner. The solution is simple, wear hearing protection while riding your motorcycle, and you’ll continue to enjoy riding for decades to come and not suffer tinnitus in motorcycle riders.