As a rider, you should really take good care of your ears. Why? Well, imagine that you live long enough now to have grandchildren, and your motorcycle riding days are over and that means that the only joy you’ll get from that time, is when your grandkids ask you “Hey pops tell us about that time you cross from San Francisco to New York on your bike”, and if you don’t take care of your hiring while riding, you may not enjoy this moment.
A lot of enthusiasts myself included are major advocates for the use of earplugs while riding. Of course, there are some concerns about them, mainly because it may reduce safety preventing riders from hearing other vehicles, however, both audiologists and experienced motorcyclists agree that the concern is unfounded.
Well, let’s jump right into it by answering the first question. Why do we need to worry about our ears while riding, in the first place?
NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) which is part of the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends that workers don’t be exposed to sound levels above 85 decibels in their eight-hour work days and go on to state that sound levels above 100 decibels are damaging right after fifteen minutes of exposure.
These tests were conducted by researchers of the South Alabama University and the William Patterson University the use an acoustically engineered dummy and microphones and found out that speeds over 25 MPH, wind noise cancels out any noise from the bike and at 74 MPH wind noise exceeded the 100 decibels mark.
Simply put what these two facts tell us is that is we drive our motorcycles at highway speeds for over fifteen minutes without earplugs you are permanently damaging your hearing. Let’s face it, no one wants to drive a bike for just 15 minutes.
Well, not me that for sure, and not you either. Nothing brings more joy to a Biker than riding at least 8 hours. Now, riding may not be working, but NIOSH standards applied, meaning that the exposure to sounds over 100 decibels requires protection to avoid permanent damage. The first thing we all need to do is get ourselves earplugs A-S-A-P.
WHY EARPLUGS MAKE YOU SAFER?
If you made it this far, then you know that our ears don’t work at 100 decibels. We humans didn’t evolve in an environment where loud noises were constant and common, back then there weren’t any chainsaws, factories, and motorcycles.
That is the main reason why earplugs don’t reduce your safety, they don’t cancel out noises you should be hearing like sirens, vehicles approaching, horns blowing, amongst others. What they do is reduce the pressure that sound makes on you, allowing your ears to operate in a more natural range, so you’ll be able to distinguish sounds better, trust the experts when they tell you that because of this, you’ll be more likely to hear a distinctive sound like a siren, because your ears are not overwhelmed with 100 decibels of sound pressure.
Another thing experts (and by experts I mean Bikers with many years of riding under their belt) agree on, is that they began to use earplugs on long rides they felt less fatigued, which is a great safety improvement since we are all more likely to make mistake when we are tired, using earplugs really does improves your odds.
WHICH EARPLUGS SHOULD YOU BUY?
Well, not to be unhelpful or anything, but there is really not a right choice, there are many options out there that fits everyone preferences, at the end of the day they all do what they are supposed to do, for example, disposable foam earplugs work just great for most people. Personally, I’ve tried some of the others, but always end up coming back to basics, the trick with the foam earplugs is to use them correctly, just roll them tight insert them into your ear canal and let it expand.
Of course, there are other kinds of earplugs available, including custom made plugs made for you. The best part is that all options are very cheap (Except for the custom made that is).
In conclusion, the sooner you start taking seriously your hearing, the better, no matter which kind of earplugs you choose.