Hearing damage occurs at or above a sound level of 85 decibels. In other words, you need an earplug with a sound reduction of 20 decibels on your motorcycle. A sound reduction of 20dB is the right balance between protection and experience.
How much noise do you subject yourself to when riding a motorcycle? And if your answer is: “Not much,”…you may be wrong.
As surprising as it might be, even at moderate speeds and engine volume, we’re exposed to loudness beyond the threshold of pain – and each time we engage in this activity, our hearing acuity decreases.
We’ll look into the effects of motorcycle noise and its destructive impact on our ability to discern certain frequencies.
Is riding a motorcycle bad for your hearing?
Riding a motorcycle is something that many people enjoy, but even if it doesn’t take much time, you need to realize that exposure to excessive noise can seriously harm your hearing.
How loud does the noise of riding a motorcycle get?
The sound levels depend on various factors – for instance, engine size and type. But generally speaking, they vary between 95 decibels (when idling) and more than 100 decibels (at high speeds).
This means that certain areas, like freeways, are considerably noisier than others; for example, 70 dBA at 38km/h (that’s around 60mph), whereas urban roads reach up to 85dB or slightly more.
These values don’t seem like much until you consider that the noise of a motorcycle engine is close to your ears and that damage occurs at 85 decibels or more.
What effect does this have on my hearing?
Any sound over 80dB can cause permanent damage. The sounds of motorcycles are often beyond that limit, and even short exposures can lead to irreversible changes in hearing acuity, especially for children and young people who still have developing auditory systems.
For them, riding a motorcycle without ear protection causes the same hearing loss as an adult working in a factory with loud machinery – so you can imagine how important it is to wear some earplugs while riding.
How effective are those foam things I see people using?
Some models come recommended; they fit flush inside the ear canal and reduce noise in the 18- to 28-dB range.
But still, it’s not enough, so you’d better check out custom molded plugs – an audiologist makes them after taking an impression of your ears. They’re more expensive but provide a much higher noise reduction effect (up to 30 dB).
Should motorcyclists wear ear plugs?
It’s a given. In fact, the American Motorcyclist Association has been actively encouraging riders to use earplugs since 1985.
There are many ear plugs available to choose from, depending on your riding habits and budget – from simple foam pieces to custom molded models.
When selecting them, it’s important not to opt for super-soft ones as they don’t hold their shape during insertion into your ears; also, remember that cotton swabs are useless when it comes to hearing protection – they only push sound more directly into your ears.
Do you need ear plugs with full face helmet?
Yes. Even if you wear a full-face helmet, the wind pressure pushes noise into your ears or causes them to flap – so earplugs are still recommended.
How about open face helmets?
If your helmet doesn’t have a chin piece covering the bottom of your face – it’s not an open-face helmet. If it does, the same principle applies; even if you don’t cover all of your ears with plugs, they’ll help by cutting out some of the noise.
How loud is wind on a motorcycle?
It’s not as loud as the engine, but it can be not very pleasant during high speeds. Wind noise increases proportionally to your speed; at 100km/h (60mph).
it reaches about 80dB and becomes even more obvious in cross-winds or on scooters with a larger frontal area. In most motorcycles, the average can be about 96dB to 106 dB.
How loud is it in a motorcycle helmet?
Even if you wear a full-face helmet, the wind noise is at least 10dB louder with it on. Additionally, most helmets don’t make for good earmuffs; they often sit too far away from your ears to block high frequencies (particularly harmful) and allow sound waves to enter directly through their vents.
How much does a motorcycle helmet reduce noise?
A full-face helmet provides 31dB of sound reduction if it’s new and 23dB when it’s older. But remember that wind noise can overwhelm almost any type of helmet, so you’d better get a good earplug to protect your ears from the noise of riding a motorcycle.
What are the sound levels between Cars to Motorcycles?
- Car 30Mph -> 62dB
- Car 50Mph (80 KMh) -> 70dB
- Car 70 (112 Kmh) -> 76dB
- Motorcycles (reference from here and here):
- Motorcycle 30Mph -> 78 – 90dB
- Motorcycle 65Mph -> 110-116dB
- Motorcycle 70 -> Above 116dB
It’s interesting to see how the numbers compare between the two vehicles. I have personally seen the decibel level of a motorcycle passing me to be roughly 110 Decibels.
Whatever the motivation behind our desire to reduce noise, there’s no denying that motorcycles are noisy machines that produce sound pressure levels well beyond what is considered comfortable.
It’s been argued that a motorcycle is louder than a jet aircraft at takeoff and approach.
So, if these machines are so loud, why aren’t we all deaf? Well, for starters, there is the obvious: sound pressure level (SPL) doesn’t tell the whole story.
For example, take two vehicles that produce the same SPLs but different frequencies. While both vehicles may be equally loud in terms of SPL, one can cause significantly more damage than another simply because humans are much more sensitive to some frequencies than others.
This means that even though one noise source might not seem as loud as another based on SPL alone, it could still result in just as much – or even more – damage to one’s hearing depending on its frequency content.
Even with this in mind, we STILL want to try and keep the noise down for obvious reasons. This is where earplugs come into play; they can reduce dBs by as much as 32dB (meaning that you would only experience about 94% of harmful sound) and still allow you to hear some (if not all) noise.
What does this mean for me?
It means that if you want to enjoy riding your motorcycle without hearing loss, get good ear protection. You needn’t spend a fortune; many universal plugs are available online at low prices.
Everyone should know that even casual exposure can do serious damage. So whether you ride for pleasure or commute daily on your bike, ensure you protect your ears!