Unfortunately, the day will come for all of us where motorcycle riding will be nothing more than a memory. There will be plenty of stories to tell our friends and family and there will always be that one trip that we wish we took. The non-riders will look at us with envy as we talk about our cross country trip, Sturgis, and riding the lower forty-eight. Their questions and comments will be many, but the only difference between them and us is that we can’t hear them.
My own personal studies and surveys proves that riding a motorcycle makes you happier than those that do not. However, as well all know, motorcycle riding is a dangerous hobby. When riding, we are dealing with road hazards and cagers, but what about when the ride is over? No, not over as you reached your destination, but over as we can no longer ride? Are we safe? Not really! There still exists the “silent killer.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health recommends that workers should not be exposed to more than 85 decibels of noise during a work day, and that at 100 decibels, after 15 minutes hearing damage occurs. The NIOCSH even has a cool website where you can play with a “Noise Meter” to hear and see what decibel levels everyday objects produce.
For example, the chainsaw produces 110 decibel level, so after two minutes, you are causing damage to your hearing. Now imagine riding your motorcycle at 70 mph where the decibel will exceed 100. Anywhere between two to fifteen minutes, you are causing hearing damage. So, unless you plan to ride for less than fifteen minutes, you have a problem. And this doesn’t apply solely to highway speeds, because past 25 mph, wind noise surpasses any noise your motorcycle produces.
When riding without earplugs, there is TTS or Temporary Threshold Shift, which is a condition caused from continuous overexposure to sound. It is a form of temporary hearing loss and if you have ever been to a concert, then you know what I am talking about. However, if exposed for longer periods of time, then the damage starts to become permanent.
As motorcyclists, imagine our typical weekend ride where we ride over 55 mph to arrive to a biker bar where a band is playing loud rock-n-roll music and after being close to the speakers for a few hours, we jump back on our bikes to go home. How much damage was done to our hearing?
I am the first to admit I have not used earplugs as much as I should but I realize I have to. Most people tell me they do not use earplugs because it blocks out sounds, but that is not true. Call that an old biker’s tale if you will. The fact is earplugs reduce the overall pressure on your ears and thus, it helps distinguish from important noises such as sirens and horns since earplugs block out wind noise, not other important noises. In addition, studies show that earplugs also help reduce fatigue because “noise fatigue” has been reduced.
I always argue consistency especially when it comes to the motorcycle riding community. I ask people how can you wear proper riding googles, gloves, a helmet, maybe even a riding jacket, but are wearing sneakers? Or wear everything except a shirt? The same applies now to earplugs. It will just have to become part of my regular gear when I ride because if there is something I want to be able to do when I become old and can’t ride any longer, is hear someone ask me “tell me about your awesome cross country trip.”