Hearing Damage from Loud Motorcycle Pipes or Wind Noise?

Well, it was bound to happen and I guess it did. After three decades in and around motors and motorcycles and nearly four around firearms, I’ve officially lost some hearing.

How’d it happen? Honestly, I’m not sure. When it came to firearms training, I was always the guy wearing hearing protection on the range. Nevertheless, after a visit to the ear doctor this last week, I have lost about 20% in one ear and 25% in the other.

The culprit? Ironically, the Doc said it wasn’t years of no mufflers and open headers, it was probably wind. Loud pipes may save lives, but it appears that the wind can mess you up.

Wind?

Hearing Damage from Loud Motorcycle Pipes or Wind Noise

Yep. According to the good doctor, once you’re on the bike and cruising at normal speed, the wind noise actually can get up past 100 decibels and that level sustained for over an hour can impact your hearing.

So, in disbelief, I went home and got on the computer to learn more (partly because I didn’t believe him and partly because my Dad has lost most of the hearing in one ear and I don’t want to be like that).

Yep. Wind noise on a bike can be over 100 db – the equivalent of a really loud nightclub and that means you could lose some of what you had when you got there.
So what are some common sounds and just how loud are they?

Shotgun blast – 130
Thunderclap – 120
Jet engine flyover – 105
Motorcycle at idle – 91
Race car at idle (open headers) – 93
Diesel truck at 40mph – 84
Refrigerator running – 40
“Normal” conversation – 55-60
Leaves rustling – 20
Sneaking into your parents’ house when you were a kid and had been out past curfew drinking – 6

Since we can’t really make wind noise go away while we are on a bike, what are we supposed to do? Well, whether you think it’s cool or not, I’ve started using earplugs. In my case, the same ones that I’ve used for shooting, just the simple foam ones and there are tons of different types on the market. My doctor offered to make me a set custom-fit from a mold of my ears for about $100, but I figured that I’d lose those pretty quickly.

Nope, I just raided the range bag and have started using a $5 set of push-ins and you know what?

I’m actually finding that I can concentrate better on the road without the noise distractions. Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Sheesh – that’s all in your head!”

Well, yeah. It is and it may be, but the reality is that after a few rides with these things in place, I notice that the when I get off the bike, I don’t feel as fatigued and my head seems to be clearer.

Here’s the bigger point – I know that my hearing has been lost. I know it isn’t going to grow back. I don’t want to lose any more, so I’m going to be experimenting for the next few months to see what earplugs work best. If all the research that I’ve seen is true – and at this point I don’t think that it isn’t – then all of us are going to need to take a hard look at how we protect our hearing just like we concern ourselves with our heads, our vision, and our hides.

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