Noise protection

You may not realise it, but you run a risk of permanently damaging your hearing every time you ride.  While it's true that bikes aren't particularly noisy (even with a race can) and there are no loud bangs (unless your bike is that badly tuned), wind noise is significant and can cause permanent hearing loss at just 40 mph. 

At over 100 mph (not that any of you would ever do such speeds) you could be risking severe, permanent damage.  If you ride a motorcycle and your hearing sounds muffled afterwards or if your ears ring (Tinnitus), then you are suffering temporary hearing damage which if repeated regularly will become permanent.  The brain will compensate for this temporary loss by tuning out the ringing, so you may not even notice it.  By the time you are aware of the problem, you will have experienced significant permanent damage.  It's also worth remembering that hearing damage is cumulative and builds over time. 

So even though you are not aware of the problem now, it might catch up with you in later life.  A Hearing aid is currently the only treatment for permanent hearing loss of this kind.  Tests commissioned by the Home Office have shown that noise levels range from 75 - 90 dB at 35 mph (roughly the same as a chain saw) to 110 - 116 dB at 120 mph on the road, which is well above the level permitted by the Health and Safety Executive for a working environment.

No matter how much you spend on a helmet, it cannot fully protect you.  The configuration of your bike screen height, riding position, your height, aerodynamics etc., all affect the wind noise being produced.  It is true that as we go through life, our hearing will fade, such that we have probably heard all the sounds we are going to hear, by the age of 7, but it would be nice not to be actively contributing to our loss of hearing.  Here are a few things you can do to help.

A well sealing visor and a helmet/neck sleeve can both help reduce wind noise (around 5 to 8 dB at the ear), but ultimately you need ear plugs (cost 20p - £3) to get the best protection.  Forget about isolating the wind noise, just stop it going in your ears.  Once you've got used to riding with plugs, you will find it uncomfortable to ride without them.  Remember though, they may impact your awareness initially as you may not hear other traffic so well.  After a while, you'll find it pretty natural and ear plugs offer the best noise protection.  If you would prefer a set of custom made ear plugs, then contact your local Audiology Unit or ENT clinic at you local hospital.  Many offer a custom ear plug service or can refer you to clinics that provide this service.  The process costs around £25 - £50, but should last and will generally offer better protection than disposable plugs.


"Its important to protect your hearing when riding as you would be surprised how much damage can be done to your hearing"