Column: Motorcyclists, hear this warning
Commentary by Marty Wood
I have been enjoying motorcycling for more years than I care to admit. In addition to the wind in our faces, unobstructed panoramic views and the experience of the road on two (sometimes three) wheels, most of us really enjoy the sound a motorcycle makes.
Most motorcyclists understand that noise exposure over time damages their hearing, unfortunately, many define noise as that emanating from the bike itself or other road and traffic conditions. Many bikers believe that only those that do not wear full-face helmets are exposed to excessive noise. While somewhat correct, the real hearing “killer” is wind noise.
Wind noise is the result of turbulence produced around the head while in motion. The result is irreversible hearing loss/damage over a period of time when adequate hearing protection is not worn. Like shooting and aviation noise exposure, the amount of exposure to the inner ear is compounded every hour you ride.
To put this in perspective, an average worker surrounded by levels of approximately 85 to 90 decibels (dB) for an eight-hour day will not exceed the limits of exposure time within 24 hours. However, when the sound levels exceed 100 dB, exposure time is reduced to two hours. If sound levels exceed 115 dB, exposure time is reduced to 15 minutes. Typical “wind noise” at highway speeds can measure up to 103 dB.
At these levels, a rider begins to experience physical fatigue from excess noise exposure, and puts him or her into a position of needing a hearing aid later in life.
Another common motorcycle riding experience is a temporary loss of your hearing level immediately following a long ride. Having this experience over time will result in permanent hearing damage. Everyone has experienced this at one time or another, whether it is from going to loud dance halls, or concerts or even work, but this is a common occurrence for motorcyclists who do not wear adequate hearing protection while riding their bike.
There are several types of hearing-protection devices on the market. A custom set of ear molds is the best answer for suppressing sound. They provide excellent noise-suppression values and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. (One additional recommendation is to check with local state officials on the regulations of wearing hearing protection. See the AMA web pages on State Motorcycle Laws, www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/State-Laws.aspx.)
Marty Wood is the owner of Zounds of Fishers, a hearing center at 11852 Allisonville Rd. He may be reached at 596-8637.