In four decades of riding motorcycles, I’ve gone on a journey of discovery regarding hearing protection.
When I started out, virtually no-one wore I knew wore earplugs while riding and it was only in recent years that I really started to understand the damage to one’s hearing that can be caused by the wind noise generated on a motorcycle.
Research from Auritech shows that riders fall into three broad camps: those who wear hearing protection regularly, those who are unaware of the dangers of riding without hearing protection (that was me!) and those who know about the potential damage of riding without earplugs, but choose not to anyway.
Over the years I’ve heard all kinds of reasons as to why people don’t wear hearing protection, and there are still many myths flying around. Back in the day, I probably believed some of them, and even perpetuated a few as well. As I wrote my last blog for Auritech, I recalled some of the most common objections I heard from bikers when talking about the subject. Here are the five I hear the most, and my usual riposte!
I listen to music instead
Some riders like listen to music while riding. Personally I find it distracting, but each to their own.
However, don’t think that wearing regular ear buds and listening to music through them will protect your hearing. It won’t!
Sure, if the music is cranked up loud enough it might overwhelm the wind noise – but that wind noise, especially the harmful high pitched frequencies will still be there and doing harm to your hearing. And it’ll be joined by even more loud noise from your music…
That said, if you want to listen to music while you ride there are some options for you. Connect some in helmet speakers to your device through Bluetooth and wear filtered ear plugs, like Auritech Biker, and you can enjoy your music with greater clarity, and at less volume, while eliminating the harmful high frequency wind noise.
My helmet is quiet already
There’s some truth in this myth, but even the quietest helmets generate enough decibels to harm your hearing.
There is no doubt that some helmets are louder than others. This comes down to a number of factors, not least the shape of the shell, the visor design, the helmet interior and the shape of the wearer’s head. I have three helmets I use on a regular basis: a classically styled AGV, a Schuberth jet helmet and a touring orientated Shoei.
Of the three, the Shoei is by far and away the quietest (the AGV, even with earplugs is unbearably loud) but wear it long enough at motorway speeds and it leaves me fatigued and risking damage to my hearing.
It doesn’t take a lot to cause permanent hearing damage. 85dB is commonly regarded as the safe limit, more than that and the wearing of hearing protection is recommended. For reference, the air flow around the helmet can generate that kind of decibel level at around 60mph.
Earplugs are unsafe
Wearing solid ear plugs can block out all sound, making the wearer feel isolated and meaning that they can’t hear ambient sounds around them, such as speech and other vehicles. That can be a safety issue and, for some, a reason not to wear earplugs.
Personally, I find that foam earplugs don’t completely block out sounds, but they are very suppressed and muffled. Filtered plugs, such as Auritech Biker, have a tiny ceramic filter built into them, which eliminates that sense of isolation and allows for normal speech, while still cutting out that harmful high frequency wind noise. This overcomes the safety concerns and allows riders to hear other traffic while out on the bike.
I find them uncomfortable
We all have different shaped ears and we don’t all get on with foam earplugs, which are not really designed to be worn under a crash helmet.
Please don’t give up with earplugs, just because you found them uncomfortable in the past. Your hearing is too important, so try alternatives until you find the protectors that work best for you. Premium plugs, like Auritech Biker, are reusable and have a tapered fit designed to fit almost every shape and size of ear. And if all else fails, custom fit plugs are moulded to precisely fit your ears.
It’s too late for me
One thing I hear a lot, and I sympathise with, is the biker who says ‘I wish I knew about them when I was younger. My hearing’s already damaged, so it’s too late now’.
Wrong! It’s never too late to start wearing hearing protection. Hearing loss is caused by the hairs in the cochlea becoming damaged, and while you can’t reverse the damage you can halt further loss taking place by wearing ear plugs.
So while it may be too late to stop the initial damage, it’s never too late to take preventative action. Tinnitus and hearing loss sucks, that’s for sure, but a louder ringing in the ears and total deafness is even worse!