How to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders | Motorcycle riding causes tinnitus
Warm summer day. Open road. You’re on your motorcycle, and there’s nothing between you and that sense of freedom. You’re a responsible rider, so you’re decked out from head to toe in protective gear: boots, leathers, gloves, glasses, helmet. But you’re missing that one important piece of protection that’s often overlooked: earplugs, the gear that’s needed to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders.
Table of Contents
1.1 The Importance of Wearing Hearing Protection when Motorcycle Riding
A growing body of evidence suggests that many riders are missing out on a critical piece of protective gear. An increasing number of studies show that hearing protection is an essential component of responsible motorcycle operation. Long-term exposure to loud noise from the wind and/or the motorcycle engine is known to damage hearing and create tinnitus in motorcycle riders.
The constant noise proves especially harmful, given the expected exposure to it during a motorcycle ride. A long ride can last hours, and the hearing loss experienced by any rider is greatly amplified depending on exposure time.
There are a number of sources of loud noise on any motorcycle ride. For this reason, researchers and enthusiasts are discussing the benefits and adopting the habit, of wearing earplugs while riding a motorcycle. The realization is that an individual’s long-term health is more important than personal comfort.
1.2 What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus affects up to 20% of people and is a sign of an underlying condition related to hearing loss. Tinnitus induces the perception of noise or ringing in the ears and is one symptom that results from noise-induced hearing loss. When our ears are subjected to loud noises over long periods of time, the delicate hairs inside the ear are damaged, causing noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
1.2.1 Causes of Tinnitus in Motorcycle Riders
The first thought that comes to mind when considering what causes tinnitus in motorcycle riders is the sound from the motorcycle’s engine itself. Motorcycle engines can easily produce 100 decibels when accelerating. Add in free-flowing exhaust components, and custom intakes and that decibel number will still grow. Some competition dirt bike engines are capable of producing 140 decibels – nearly enough sound pressure to cause nausea with prolonged exposure.
Another source of sound that causes tinnitus in motorcycle riders is the wind rushing past your ears. Wind noise is more dangerous to hearing that the damaging effects of the sound of the motorcycle’s engine. Wind noise can top 90 to 100 decibels and a cruise down the freeway at 80 miles per hour. It can generate as much as 118 decibels of noise in a rider’s ears.
This is the equivalent of operating the following. A chainsaw, leaf blower or snowmobile, and OSHA recommend limiting personal exposure. The recommended noise at that level to under 10 minutes per day.
1.2.2 How to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders
Let’s be real: you’re not going to limit yourself to a cruise that lasts only 10 minutes per day. That’s not a cruise. How much will your helmet help? You don’t climb on without it so how much help does it give? The best motorcycle helmet only reduces the decibel level by 4 decibels. Noise from turbulent air entering the helmet at the chin and neck grows quickly when trapped. Despite the obvious necessity for a helmet, when it comes to hearing protection, most helmets on the market are, to some extent, hazardous to your hearing and don’t do much to prevent tinnitus in motorcycle riders.
The main defense from noise, most notably from engines and wind, to protect against tinnitus in motorcycle riders is to use some type of hearing protection while riding. You want your ride on that beautiful summer day to last much longer than 10 minutes.