When you think of motorcycle safety, some typical topics might come to mind. Wearing a helmet and following proper traffic laws can help keep you safe on your ride. Something that is not often considered is the health of your ears, especially if you ride a bike regularly. Like any other loud hobby, bike riders can damage their hearing if proper protection is not put into place to prevent it. Although this is something even seasoned riders might not have considered, now is a good time to take control of your hearing health.
The Decibel Scale and Your Hearing
If you have heard about the decibel
scale, it’s usually in reference to very loud things, such as an airplane or a
rock concert, or very quiet things, such as dishwasher noise. All sounds can be
measured on the decibel scale, so to understand more about the effect your
motorcycle can have on your hearing, it’s important to understand how the
decibel scale works.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
The decibel scale measures sound in an
exponential way, which means that when you compare a sound that is 10 decibels
to the complete silence of 0 decibels, the sound is 10 times more intense. Add
another 10 decibels, and the sound is 100 times as intense as silence, not 20
times as you might expect. If you are following this logarithmic scale, you
know that 30 decibels are 1000 times the sound of silence.
Since all sounds are measured on this
scale, how do you know when a sound is loud enough to damage your hearing?
Experts agree that a level of 85 decibels combined with an eight-hour exposure
time can be enough to affect your hearing and cause permanent loss. This
assessment is made under the assumption that you are located near the source of
the sound, which will be the case when you are riding your bike.
How Loud Is Your Motorcycle Ride?
Since 85 decibels extended over eight
hours can cause damage to your hearing, it will take much less time for damage
to occur if your average ride is much louder. A variety of factors contribute
to how loud your motorcycle ride ends up being. Your bike itself, even though
it might be a quieter model, contributes a great deal to the volume of sound.
Another major factor to take into consideration is the sound of the wind at
high speeds. The faster your speed, the higher the volume of sound the wind
Even if you ride for a much shorter
time than eight hours, the combination of bike sound and wind rushing sound
likely keeps the decibel level higher than the 85 decibels needed to cause
hearing damage. Due to the exponential decibel factors, even a combined level
of 100 decibels could potentially cause issues in a fraction of the time. By
comparison, any sound over 140 decibels has the potential to cause immediate
damage to your hearing, which is why ear protection is needed at gun ranges and
around loud fireworks.
How You Can Reduce Noise
When it comes to the noise made by your motorcycle, the loudest sound will be coming from your motorcycle exhaust. The Noise Control Act of 1972 regulates the total noise emissions for motorcycles. All motorcycles sold in the US have to meet strict sound requirements, however many people modify or change out their exhausts for aftermarket systems which tend to be louder than stock systems or the required decibel level. You can reduce the noise from your exhaust by making sure your exhaust is in good working order and the material in the mufflers that is used to reduce noise is still in good shape. If you have aftermarket pipes on your bike you can look for a new exhaust system that is quieter and meets the proper decibel levels.
Another way to reduce the noise is to protect your hearing. Some people believe that a motorcycle helmet does a good enough job reducing noise, but the best way to protect your ears is through the use of earplugs. Ear plugs, when used regularly and correctly, can drastically reduce how much wind and motor noise is able to reach your ears.
What To Consider When Using Ear Plugs
In some areas, earplugs are not allowed
while operating a moving vehicle, and that includes riding a motorcycle. It’s
important to make sure the use of earplugs is legal where you are riding.
Another consideration is the ability to hear other sounds while you are driving
that are vital to your safety on the road, such as sirens from emergency
vehicles or honking horns from other vehicles. Although this is a common worry,
typically the reduction in the constant wind pitch allows a rider to hear the
low-frequency sound of sirens and horns easily. If this is a concern for you,
test it out locally before going on an extended ride using ear plugs.
There are a few different types of earplugs to choose from. The most common and most popular earplugs you’ll find are the foam type such as the Hearos Ultimate Softness Series Ear Filter ($7.42). These come in a pack of 20 and are made of extremely soft squeezable foam. To use them you simply squeeze them between your fingers, gently place them in your ear canal (not too far) and then they will expand and form to your ear canal. You can get several uses out of them before they get too nasty. You can try to clean them but over time they’ll be too grimy and gross so it’s best to just toss them.
For a more long term solution there is the Hearos Rock-N-Roll Series Ear Plugs ($4.25). With this you only get two earplugs, however, they are made from soft silicon and are much easier to clean and maintain. They also come with a small carrying case so you’ll be less likely to lose them. Choosing between the two is mostly a matter of preference.
Up Your Motorcycle Accessories
If you drive a motorcycle and are concerned that
the constant, loud noise of the motor and the wind could cause damage to your
ears, investing in quality earplugs is an easy and inexpensive way to reduce
your risk. If you’re in the market to purchase ear plugs or a variety of other
motorcycle accessories, Chaparral Motorsports has a large selection of quality
products available, including popular name brands. Contact
us today at 1-800-841-2960 or browse our online product catalog to find
everything from motorcycle tires to high-quality gear for your ride.