It's not new knowledge that wind noise can cause damage to a rider's hearing. But a recent report has brought the topic back to the fore.

German automobile association ADAC reported on the levels of noise needed to cause hearing loss in connection with motorcycling. The level at which noise becomes damaging is at 85 dB, with prolonged exposure causing hearing loss or tinnitus (a permanent ringing in the ears). Motorcyclists regularly subject themselves to noises at that level and above. Making them vulnerable to hearing damage.

Back in 2003, Andrew W McCombe published a report titled Hearing loss in motorcyclists: occupational and medicolegal aspects. It analysed the results from its own tests, as well as from six others which had already been carried out.

By placing a mini microphone at the riders' ear under their helmet, they could measure sound levels in various conditions. It concluded they were subjected to excessive wind noise in their helmets. Levels which can cause both temporary and permanent hearing damage.

It also confirmed hearing loss in motorcyclists. Identifying Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) as a problem in riders after only an hour of high-speed riding. TTS is when your hearing temporarily becomes less than what it was before the initial exposure. It paired this with a corresponding complaint of tinnitus, caused by continuous TTS exposure.

The recent study by the ADAC brought to light some shocking numbers. Riding at 62mph, which typically generates a wind noise of 95dB, can cause permanent damage after 15 minutes. Increase the speed to 74mph, and an average wind noise of 98dB is generated – a level which is harmful after seven minutes. Riding at 87mph was harmful after just three minutes.

Hearing loss in motorcyclists suggested back in 2003 that helmets were not enough to protect the rider from wind noise. And later research has concurred. The largest noise reduction from wearing a helmet ranges from 3 to 5 dB. Earplugs, on the other hand, can reduce noise exposure by as much as 35dB, making them a far more effective solution.

The problem with this is that a lot of riders don't want to wear them. Often for the same reason that most people don't wear earplugs at concerts. Perhaps because they believe that the noise is tolerable, or that the damage is gradual and might not affect them. Some forget, and others find it too much of an inconvenience. And so the risk continues.

Do you wear ear protection, if so, when, and what kind? Has motorcycling caused problems with your hearing, or is wind noise something that doesn't concern you? We'd love to know what you think.


23/02/18 - I Always have done couldn't ride without them now and exactly the same ones shown in the picture.

23/02/18 - What?

23/02/18 - Pardon?, did you say something?

23/02/18 - I use Laserlite - the yellow/pink ones. We use these at work and I have found them to be much better with a SNR35, than those in the photo.
Unless those are 3M??
Also got a supposedly quiet helmet. BMW S6

23/02/18 - Does it not depend on the helmet and your exhaust...

23/02/18 - Get your head down and don't worry about it.

23/02/18 - It conserns me as above 100mph my 4 speaker 400w sound system gets a tad quiet ;-) Especially if I close the flip front lid then it's like putting thos things & they don't do 1000w speaker's in 4 inch size. Or not in my price range

23/02/18 - Always wear plugs as don't like the wind noise . However 30 years of loud hard driving rock the hearing is shot somewhat

23/02/18 - Never worn earplugs, been biking 46 years nothing wrong with my hearing .

23/02/18 - I use whatever we have in work

23/02/18 - Wear them.... Spent years as a courier in London then engineering after that.. Never wore ear protection and have tinnitus now...

23/02/18 - Did quite a lot without a lid back then

23/02/18 - Pardon !

23/02/18 - Nor did The Who help

          23/02/18 - Or the sex pistols motorhead and the abotior blues lol

23/02/18 - That's why I ride at 80

23/02/18 - Ive got three types of tinatus a rumbling a high pitch and a background whirr , it got worse after a three flights in one day trip and a spell living in florida and no helmet

23/01/18 - I use silicone Hush plugz from a shop called SAVERS £2 for 7 pairs. Best you can buy don't waste your money on all these plugs on the market for £20

23/02/18 - 37 years of riding and rock gigs... I think the damage was done years ago!

23/02/18 - I always wear ear plugs, but thanks to Motörhead, AC/DC and Black Sabbath I have tinnitus. There’s no such thing as quiet for me

23/02/18 - Tinnitus is more common than most people think, if only I’d known about it when I was younger, I’d have looked after my hearing by wearing ear plugs at concerts.

24/02/18 - while it must be horrible having tinnitus,i couldn't think of better bands to cause it!

23/02/18 - I always wear my custom made earplugs when I ride best 75 dorra I ever spent

24/02/18 - I'll get some when I get a new speedo

24/02/18 - buy him some ear plugs oh and a new speedo

24/02/18 - Picked up the good habit after one time at NZ street circuit race event where volunteers hand them out. Always where them on longer open road rides and quite common here. Many years ago started getting industrial deafness in one ear from truck driving with drivers window down, low bass freq/wind noise is most damaging as its close to human speech which your ears are tuned to.

24/02/18 - Then only do it for 14 minuets, problem solved

24/02/18 - Its a bit like smoking or skydiving or any other risk, some are lucky and get away with it others are not and suffer consequences... you make the choice and accept the risk... like so many things wearing earplugs is easy and cheap so why take the risk, but its personal choice so good luck to you all.

24/02/18 - I ride a 2003 hayabusa with a 4 into 1 exhaust with no db killer, hearing is fine thanks :D as per other comments, years of motorhead, metallica and Slayer concerts have more than likely done more damage than my bikes over the years, I don't like ear plugs on bike because i like to hear the bike and to hear any potential hazards on the road while out riding "Sorry officer, i never heard your siren because i was trying to protect my hearing"

06/03/18 - I’m an Audiologist (ear specialist) and do not wear ear protection but probably should!

02/05/18 - Used to say nothing wrong with my hearing!!
Motorcycling for 48 years and didn’t start wearing ear plugs until about 5 years ago when tinnitus started.
Now always wear them to hang on to what hearing I have left.
YOU MAY NOT BE DEAF YET!! But it will get you when you get to 50 or 60.

Posted by Daisy Cordell
for Wemoto News on 23 February 2018 in General News



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