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In terms of rider education and injury prevention, a great deal of attention is paid to motorcycle safety by the government, motorcycle industry, and media.
Roughly one out of every 10 Americans suffer from hearing loss that affects their ability to understand normal conversation. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities.
NIHL in the workplace has been well documented, and OSHA has made rules regarding what is an acceptable duration of exposure to various levels of noise. The human ear is an incredibly compact and complex structure, providing riders with vital information.
In the ear, the air pressure waves that are the physical embodiment of sounds are converted by the ear into the electrochemical impulses that the brain can understand. The basilar membrane is one of the membranes dividing the cochleaa€™s tapered tube lengthwise into three parallel, fluid-filled tubes. An aside: Some studies have shown that certain helmet shapes and construction may amplify sounds of certain frequencies, which is not a good thing and may contribute to hearing loss. Whatever you do or dona€™t have on your noggin, riding a motorcycle at highway speeds is a noisy undertaking. OSHA has defined 85 dB as the intensity beyond which there is the potential for permanent damage to your hearing. Look around the offices of almost any motorcycle publication, and youa€™re likely to find a bulk dispenser of foam earplugs. The cheapest and most common ear protection is foam earplugs which can be found at any local drug store. When installed correctly, foam earplugs can effectively reduce noise to a level to allow all-day riding without any hearing damage. However, be forewarned, proper installation of foam earplugs is required for anything close to the NRR protection. Another feature of foam plugs that some riders dona€™t appreciate is how they muffle high-frequency sounds more severely than low, which can make conversations difficult. Flanged earplugs like these from Etymotic Research attenuate the sound with a flat frequency response for quieter but still natural sound. Flanged earplugs are often made of a pliable latex or silicon a€“ although some are made with a foam material. The construction of these earplugs makes them uniquely tunable.A Some have a solid core that results in the best NRR with similar sound characteristics as foam earplugs, while others have cores that produce more accurate sound reproduction. Although flange-type earplugs are more expensive than disposable foam ones, they can be reused for extended periods. Custom fit earplugs like the these can be bought at many motorcycle events for less than $100.
For people who want the ultimate in protection from NIHL, getting custom molded earplugs is the way to go. Turning to earplugs developed for musicians (who require sound to be as accurate as possible) can help riders experience a natural sounding environment at an intensity below the threshold for long-term damage. The Etymotic musicians’ earplugs ($150) on the right have replaceable buttons to tune the attenuation from 9a€“25 dB and require a custom earmold from an audiologist.
Because of their neutral reduction of sound, these specialized earplugs require that an earmold be made by an audiologist. No matter what earplugs you choose, you can take additional steps to reduce the noise that you have to combat.
The fit of a helmet around its base can leave gaps between the rider and the liner that allow noise access to the ridera€™s ears. Two areas of research hold the most promise for reducing the noise that motorcyclists experience at speed.
When asked about wind tunnel noise testing, a representative from Shoei Japan said that, while developing helmets, the company does comparison testing of comparable helmets on the market for internal purposes.
Advances in aerodynamics and establishing noise standards for helmets may hold the key for reducing NIHL. Another area of interest in reducing NIHL for motorcyclists is the development of noise canceling technology. While these developments will be interesting to watch, the best advice we can give riders about how to protect their hearing is to wear earplugs on every ride. Pedestrians should wear ear protection when they are moving at more than 100kph (that’s 60 mph for the flat earth society), and the same goes for the Tube commuters if they like to commute with their heads sticking out of the windows. I became accustom to riding with earplugs after going to the track and now I wear them on the street too.
That’s what I thought, too, but according to the AMA state law page, there are no restrictions on earplugs in CA. If you save your dirty disposable ones and tie them in a sock, you can wash them and re-use them.

We need styles that are quick and easy to maintain without having to wake up at the break of dawn every morning to get it right. The most common kind of hearing loss is the exposure to excessive noise, and the simple act of riding a motorcycle puts riders at risk for becoming part of those statistics.
Using these standards as a baseline, riders can learn what the relative intensity of noise theya€™re facing when they ride and make educated decisions on how to minimize their long-term risk for hearing loss. Sound waves travel through the outer ear (the pinna, the part that looks like a funnel) into the auditory canal. The sound vibrations run down the basilar membrane causing hair cells (cilia) in the organ of Corti to vibrate.
The amount of damage that occurs is time dependent and related to the intensity of the sound. When they think about motorcycles, they generally think about loud pipes echoing through their neighborhood. Recent studies have shown that the primary source of helmet turbulence a€“ and noise a€“ is in the chin bar of a full-face helmet. However, when compared to the full-on auditory assault of riding helmetless, using this factor as an excuse for not wearing a helmet is nothing more than a straw-man argument. In other words, the longer you listen to sounds above 85 dB, the more cumulative damage you will suffer.
First, temporary threshold shift is the short-term loss of hearing after exposure to loud noise. Riders have several options which offer various levels of protection, comfort and convenience. Foam earplugs come in a variety of shapes, from cylinders to tapered to bullet-shaped, but you insert them the same way: roll them into a tight cylinder and slide them into your ear before they expand. All brands of non-custom earplugs are required to include a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) on their packaging.
People with narrow or oddly shaped ear canals will find that the softness that makes these plugs so comfortable to wear also makes it extremely difficult to get them completely inserted a€“ grabbing the top of the ear and pulling it up and back is key to getting them fully implanted. The flanged tips are usually tapered for deep insertion into the ears to gain the required air-tight fit. They require a little lubrication (saliva works just fine), and you have to place them fairly deeply into the ear canal. At many motorcycle events, you may have seen people getting brightly colored goo injected into their auditory canal. In fact, some people who have used these plugs report that they actually hear better on the road because their ears arena€™t getting overwhelmed by the intensity of the noise.
While this process is more expensive than the custom plugs made at motorcycle events, they do allow for multiple copies to be made if you are worried about losing your earplugs. Sometimes, a small adjustment of windshield height will make a huge difference in the way turbulence hits your helmet.
Active noise canceling could come in the form of speakers which use the destructive interference between sound waves to effectively cancel the ambient noise itself. Instead of focusing on a narrow solution for a niche, he broadens the discussion and points to steps towards a more general approach to solving noise problems. Passing noises can be a nuisance but you’re very unlikely to experience any hearing damage unless the exposure is somehow prolonged.
I’d suggest trying (or least getting a better understanding of) motorcycling before bashing it. Or you could just have your wife blow increasingly hard (not directly in, please) but across your ear and you’ll see how quickly noise levels increase. I have taken earplugs out in front of a cop who was giving me a good driving certificate without incident. At the moment I can only afford the bright orange disposable ones, but I’d like to one day own a pair that fit a little better. The easiest way to find the best prices available for medicines from legitimate, UK based chemists.
Yes, riders sometimes make passing remarks about ear fatigue after a long day in the saddle, and recent years have (in my subjective opinion) shown an increase in earplug use among riders. The wind noise at highway speeds can expose motorcyclists to sound levels in excess of 100 dB a€“ thata€™s the equivalent of using a chain saw or standing in the middle of a dance club.
However, before we delve in to motorcycle-specific causes of NIHL, we should look at the physical causes of hearing loss so that we understand how noise damages our hearing.
At the end of the canal, the eardrum (tympanic membrane) converts the air pressure waves into vibrations that are, in turn, transmitted via three tiny bones (ossicles a€“ commonly referred to as the hammer, anvil and stirrup). These delicate hair cells are responsible for making the connection to the auditory nerve by converting the physical vibrations into electrochemical signals.
While an extremely loud noise, like an explosion, can cause immediate, permanent damage, extended exposure to less loud but still damaging noise can also lead to permanent damage.
However, loud pipes arena€™t the primary culprit when it comes to NIHL among motorcyclists.

When these results were initially announced, the anti-helmet lobby latched on to the idea, saying it proved that helmets were bad for riders. From there a sliding scale has been developed to define what duration is safe exposure to noise based on its intensity above 85 dB. Think of this as the cup over your ears feeling you had for a few hours after a loud concert. However, if you have deep ear canals, you may find that you can push the plugs in far enough to make them difficult to remove (as E-i-C Duke did on a recent ride). Custom earplugs will only fit the unique ear shape of their owner, giving them easier insertion and a perfect fit for maximum attenuation of noise. Bringing the sound level down actually allows for the rider to discern the different frequencies of different sounds rather than having their auditory nerves overloaded by a sound soup. Also, if a rider has an oval head but chooses a helmet with a round shape, there will be excessive space on the sides that affect both impact and noise performance. Other passive ways to reduce helmet noise could be retractable ear muffs that form a tight seal over the ear, for protection like you see on airport workers or in shooting ranges.
Also, as stated in the article, wind noise, not loud exhaust systems, is the primary culprit in NIHL among motorcyclists. For one, if this information (in this very concise style) were presented to high school students, there would be significantly more awareness of noise pollution and effects in general.
To me the argument in favour of earplugs is simply the fact that when I’m weariing them (and a full-face helmet) I can still hear my breathing at 90 mph. Still, the subject and the use of actual, provable scientific numbers have been relatively overlooked when compared to safety items like body armor and helmets. Helmetless riders can experience noise 10 times greater than that, resulting in potential hearing loss in as little as 30 minutes.
Finally, the vibrations reach the cochlea (a fluid-filled bone structure consisting of a tapered tube that wraps around itself similar to a snaila€™s shell) where the vibrations are converted to a form that can be sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. Wea€™re born with about 15,000a€“20,000 of these cilia, and since we dona€™t grow new ones when they are damaged, we need to make the cilia last a lifetime.
Our goal, as motorcycle riders, is to determine the sound threshold that will allow us to take the long rides we enjoy and still be able to talk to our friends and family when we get home.
At a stop and at low speeds, we can cause our own hearing loss a€“ Ia€™m looking at you unbaffled V-Twin riders a€“ but once the speed approaches 40 mph, wind noise becomes the dominant sound, especially so for unhelmeted riders. However, if one considers the relative aerodynamics of the human head with its ears flapping out in the breeze versus the smoother, more aerodynamic shape of a modern full-face helmet, the fallacy of this argument is readily apparent.
As the name implies, this is a temporary symptom, but doing it repeatedly can cause permanent damage. Ia€™ve worn Etymotica€™s ERa€“20s exclusively for over five years, and have no desire to switch to anything else a€“ unless it would be stepping up to custom molded units. Like with foam plugs, some people may feel that these solid custom plugs mute the sound too much, making it hard to hear things that riders want to hear, like approaching traffic or conversation at a stop. However, if you find a way to lower the level of water (the wind noise), you have room for other sources.
If your helmet has adjustable visor mounts, make sure that they allow the visor to completely seal the eye port.
Although helmet manufacturers are more frequently mentioning the quietness of their helmets a€“ particularly premium models a€“ when unveiling them for the public, until there is an accepted standard for measuring helmet noise, motorcyclists have no way to ascertain which helmets provide the most auditory protection. I can hear the smack of car tires on the road, and all kinds of things that would be lost to the roar of wind. The second presentation of hearing loss is the permanent damage this article is addressing. So, some kind of national or international standard would improve the consumera€™s ability to make an educated choice. I am thinking specifically to straight pipes on a certain brand of two-wheel lawnmower, but not only. Although vents do increase the noise inside a helmet, it is usually significantly less that the noise created with a slightly opened visor.
Steps are being made in this direction since Schuberth makes a specific claim of a€?85dB(A) at 60 mph (with naked bikes)a€? for its S2 helmet. Both HJC and Shoei have specifically mentioned wind tunnel testing in an effort to reduce turbulence around the chin bar in recent launches of 2014 helmet models.
Where’s the government and health institutions investigating into street’s decibels? Belt drive quiet, clean, actually probably better than a shaft, no valve adjustments just like my old CB700SC Nighthawk. And where’s the building of youngsters’ awareness of this threat with the constant worship about this-and-that thunderous engine sound in car and motorcycle magazines?

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