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Thread: Huh?, Speak up, what did you say?

  1. #1
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Huh?, Speak up, what did you say?

    Hearing Loss
    Article edited from an original by JR Davies

    I thought it would be useful to post an article on a threat that is largely perceived as restricted to those of us that ride our bikes over long distances and over the years. That threat is to the loss of your ability to hear. As you read further you may find that it has already happened to you, it will get worse, and that your helmet is an inadequate defense against it.

    I know, you're expecting that I am about to rag on the Harley-Davidson sound. Wrong. While it's true that loud pipes will result in faster and more profound hearing damage, it's not necessarily the motorcycle sounds that are the principal cause of that damage. Indeed, even if your motorcycle makes no sound whatever, long distant, long duration motorcycle riding can still severely damage your hearing.

    Apart from the induction roar, which is what most of us supersports riders hear when on our bikes, it can be wind noise does the most damage to your hearing. It is there constantly, increases with speed, is loud, and virtually impossible to eliminate.

    At highway speeds wind noise is frequently well over 100 db, even when wearing a helmet! Wearing a good helmet cuts the noise by about 3 db, and then only if it is at least a 3/4 shell and properly fitted. (An improperly fitted helmet actually INCREASES wind noise!!!) ONE HOURS of exposure to 110 db will damage your hearing. At 115 db it takes only 15 MINUTES. The damage is relentless, irreversible, and cumulative.

    How can we protect our hearing from wind, engine and induction noise?

    Make sure that you wear a helmet, that it is at least a 3/4 shell, and that it fits properly. A properly fitted helmet has a lining that presses against the skin on your cheeks as well as across your forehead. Try out different makes of helmet, each manufacturer has his own idea of the perfect ‘head shape’, they are not all the same and, somewhere, there will be the perfect fit for you. A properly fitted helmet will not move around on your head with speed variations but will, in itself, reduce the amount of noise reaching your ears.

    Second, for maximum noise reduction, you can wear earplugs. There are some problems associated with doing this, not withstanding the fact that in some states it is illegal to do so. (You can legally drive a motorcycle if you are deaf, but not wear earplugs - fancy that.) Aside from the law, many people simply cannot stand (or get used to) wearing them. And, if they are improperly inserted, provide very little noise reduction benefit and will hurt in no time at all.

    Earplugs are cheap. There are many different types of disposable foam plugs, try out a few different types, no two persons ears are the same and what suits your buddy may not suit you. When you have found the ones that suit you, buy in bulk. You can buy good quality earplugs by the dozen at relatively cheap cost - wear them one day and then throw them away to prevent possible ear infections. (I cannot imagine buying one pair and reusing them day after day - what a foolish way to save a penny.) It is also possible to buy custom eaarplugs that are moulded to your ears. These are very effective but, be warned, they are not everybody’s cup of tea. The editor of this article has a set of custom moulds but cannot wear them for more than an hour at a time and so on all day rides alternates between moulds and foam plugs at each comfort stop.

    Wearing earplugs of any kind, Mr Davies asserts, is counter-productive at speeds below about 40 MPH. But if you ride for more than a few minutes and for any distance at all you will CERTAINLY be better off having worn them.

    Just because your hearing is already a 'little' damaged from wind noise you should not think it can't get worse. Riding a motorcycle at highway speeds is a GUARANTEED way to damage your hearing - and potentially profoundly. The majority of our hearing needs involves frequencies below 16 KHz. These sounds are what we use when we talk (and listen.) These also happen to be the frequencies most affected by wind noise hearing damage.

    Or, if you prefer to ignore this bit of advice, practice saying 'Huh?' But don't get used to doing that - expecting this minor inconvenience to work forever. Your hearing will get wor e.

    For perspective, a noisy restaurant produces about 80 db of noise. A subway produces about 90 db of noise. Most (legally silenced) motorcycles generate between 95dB to 105dB - open pipes can produce a lot more. A rock band generates about 110 db, a car horn is about 115 db, a gunshot is about 140 db.

    Osha says that hearing loss can begin at 90 db. Max safe exposure at 110 db is 1 hour, and only 15 minutes to sounds in excess of 115 db.

    One significant point to remember is that a 3dB increase in noise level may not be what it seems - it is actually a doubling of the noise pressure. So if your friend’s bike records 100dB and your bike records 103dB then you are receiving twice as much noise pressure as he is, NOT just a little 3% increase. You have been warned.

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    I know, I know... it's one of those "I ought to" things that I don't do - and which I will likely live to regret not doing!

  3. #3
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    I know, I know... it's one of those "I ought to" things that I don't do - and which I will likely live to regret not doing!
    You would be surprised at how many bikers say 'Ear plugs?, don't use 'em, I'm pretty deaf anyway.'

    Ken.
    Die dulci fruimini!
    Ken.
    Wolds Bikers, Lincolnshire, England.

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