Motorcycle Wind Noise Comparison Test Should You Wear Earplugs

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bluesdog

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I use low pressure disposable foam ear plugs. Roll 'em real tight and insert them w/o lube, including shpitt(!)
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They expand to fit comfortably, and provide up to 32 dB noise reduction.

 
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winewhisperer

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Leave it to me to be the odd man out, but I have never worn ear plugs of any type. The noise has never bothered me and I guess I am afraid that I might not hear something

that I need to hear. Have there been studies about safety issues when wearing earplugs? I am not advocating NOT wearing them, but I want to hear everything that is

happening around me when I ride my motorcycles. By the way, I never listen to music when I ride for the same reason.

 

HotRodZilla

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Rider magazine did one a few years ago. They were comparing helmets to find the quietest. Hell, maybe they were just doing a helmet comparo. Either way, they found that at 70mph, wind noise in EVERY helmet tested was at least 100dB.

While the damage that can cause to hearing was not tested there, there has been extensive study elsewhere about the dB limits our ears can withstand before suffering damage. A quick Google search reveals that after 2 hours of exposure, 100dB causes damage to our ears. All hearing damage of that nature is permanent.

For those of us that ride for more than an hour at a time, at freeway speeds, hearing protection is necessary to protect our ears. I used to do it, then I got smart and decided I should protect my ears as much as possible. What you do is up to you.

 

CA G-Man

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HRZ, I think winewhisperer's question about studies should be read as "am I in more danger because I'm wearing earplugs (i.e. because I can't hear a car coming up behind me or a siren or something like that)?"

On that question, like Bounce, my answer is "No! - auditory acuity (as opposed to volume) is increased when wearing earplugs."

 

winewhisperer

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Well, I do believe that ear plugs can reduce hearing damage by simply decreasing your ability to hear, much like sticking my fingers in my ears. However, I do not believe

that they are some kind of magic bullet that can filter out noise, while at the same time actually increasing your ability to hear sound more acutely. These ear plug companies

do not spend money testing their products, nor do they give a heck about you or your hearing. They are in business to sell a product and make a profit, period! If you feel

good about wearing them, then by all means, wear them.

 
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UselessPickles

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Loud noise exposure causes "temporary threshold shift" (TTS), basically reducing your ear's sensitivity to sound (making your hearing worse): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auditory_fatigue

Excess noise also causes physical/mental fatigue.

So ear plugs keep noise levels down, avoiding TTS, which allows you to continue hearing clearly. It also reduces fatigue while riding, which will help you avoid making stupid mistakes or failing to react quickly to a situation.

There's plenty of studies/evidence that the noise levels on a motorcycle without hearing protection are enough to cause permanent hearing damage, and that noise exposure causes fatigue.

There's plenty of anecdotal reports of people hearing their surroundings more clearly on a motorcycle while wearign hearing protection.

I've never heard of any claims of hearing protection causing someone to fail to hear important noises. NOTE: earbuds don't count, because they don't actually isolate outside noise. With typical earbuds, you still get all the dangerous wind noise, then add even more noise from turning up the music loud enough to hear the music. This will be worse all around than riding without anything in your ears at all. If you want music and hearing protection, custom molded in-ear monitors are the best (SOOO comfortable!).

If you're rationalizing riding without earplugs simply because your intuition tells you that you might not be able to hear important things, then you really just need to try riding with a good set of earplugs and see for yourself how well you can actually hear, and see for yourself how crisp and clear your hearing still is at the end of a long ride when you pull the ear plugs out.

 

UselessPickles

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From that wikipedia article: "Up to 120 minutes of recovery time can be required of noises of only 95 dB. For comparison, common items that can produce noise at this level are motorcycles and subways"

 

HotRodZilla

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A good set of ear plugs on a motorcycle are no different than driving down the road with the car's windows up. Add some of the car's music to that and hearing stuff in there is really subdued. I have never had an issue hearing things while on my bike.

This sounds like those guys that say a helmet stops their "6th sense" at the back of their head from 'sensing' unseen danger. That is total baloney also.

 

Nanahanman

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Well, I do believe that ear plugs can reduce hearing damage by simply decreasing your ability to hear, much like sticking my fingers in my ears. However, I do not believe that they are some kind of magic bullet that can filter out noise, while at the same time actually increasing your ability to hear sound more acutely. These ear plug companies

do not spend money testing their products, nor do they give a heck about you or your hearing. They are in business to sell a product and make a profit, period! If you feel

good about wearing them, then by all means, wear them.
You are over simplifying something that is a bit more complicated. As an audio engineer of 30+ years, I can tell what works and what doesn't.

Let's use the example of sunglasses.

There are lense colours that can actually increase perceived contrast by filtering out the blue spectrum.

Very effective in certain snow conditions. I have used them and they work. They don't increase your ability to see but reduce the light specrum that interfears with your vision.

A similar effect can be had with certain hearing protection.

I use the same kind of earplug that musicians use. They are not the same as sticking my fingers in my ears.

They are designed to reduce overall SPL but maintain a fairly natural spectral (sound) balance.

By reducing the masking sound of the white noise (wind) you are able to hear other sounds just fine.

In no way do these plugs increase " your ability to hear sound more acutely" , but they reduce the masking effect of the "bright light" of the wind noise.

Your argument that the product is ineffective just because a company is out to make a profit is a weak one.

Just because the company that made your brakes on the FJR is out to make a profit doesn't mean those brakes won't stop your bike.

Wear hearing protection or not. Your choice.

But before you make that choice, ask someone with tinnitus how their life is going.

 

Big Sky

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This is one of the things I enjoy about this forum: (occasionally) good, rational discussion with experts weighing in on relevant topics, most opinions and posters respected, even if disputed. The above comment is very well put.

 

C&C

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Hearing loss (and tinnitus) are accumulative, and once they occur (after the acute phase, which will somewhat attenuate), the loss is permanent. I've got (moderate) tinnitus from other discretion's throughout my life so I'm not looking to add to my distress; foam plugs (whenever I ride).

 

RPrice

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Hearing loss (and tinnitus) are accumulative, and once they occur (after the acute phase, which will somewhat attenuate), the loss is permanent. I've got (moderate) tinnitus from other discretion's throughout my life so I'm not looking to add to my distress; foam plugs (whenever I ride).
What???

Oh, sorry I'll put my hearing aids in now, dear! (What I say to my wife all the time). Ruined my ears long ago shooting handguns w/o hearing protection. Only takes a few rounds of a .357 Magnum!!! Religious about hearing protection now.........................better late than never I suppose.

BTW, Phonak hearing aids give me a bit of a lease on life, and keep my wife much happier!

 

winewhisperer

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All good points and some respectful and lively discussion. However, there is one point that I don't believe has been mentioned, and that is the one single, statiscal fact that

overrides all other points about hearing loss ----- AGE. Most of the members on this forum are older folks ( I am nearly 60 ) and the vast majority of us are simply loosing

hearing capability as we mature whether we have been exposed to high levels of noise or not. So, wear those earplugs and I hope your hearing maintains for the rest of

a long and healthy lifetime.

 

CA G-Man

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All good points and some respectful and lively discussion. However, there is one point that I don't believe has been mentioned, and that is the one single, statiscal fact thatoverrides all other points about hearing loss ----- AGE. Most of the members on this forum are older folks ( I am nearly 60 ) and the vast majority of us are simply loosing

hearing capability as we mature whether we have been exposed to high levels of noise or not. So, wear those earplugs and I hope your hearing maintains for the rest of

a long and healthy lifetime.
With respect, winewhisperer, I don't think anyone is neglecting the effects of age on hearing. Quite the opposite - we all know that hearing declines with age so we're saying why not do what you can to minimize those losses?

Vision also declines with age. Does that mean you shouldn't bother wearing proper UV-blocking sunglasses that would delay the development of troubling cataracts as long as possible?

 

Bill Lumberg

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Without some sort of hearing protection, after enough riding time at highway speed, I can't hear anything well. Kind of like being at a concert. Cars or conversation. With plugs, I can hear even green vehicles around me on the highway, and I never lose the ability to hear more subtle things such as conversation. It's not new, not rocket science.

 

bigjohnsd

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My hearing was permanently damaged from 5" Naval Gunfire while standing on the Bridge Wings of the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) as the Weapons Liaison Officer. Had to leave one ear exposed on the S/P phones to hear the Captain, Left ear has a documented severe loss from that one tour of duty, right ear suffered damage as well but not enough for the VA to call it a disability.

I also used to shoot skeet without earplugs, drive and work around both drag race cars and Sprint cars without ear plugs. The open headers on those vehicles surely contributed to my problems today.

Tinnitus, your ever present friend, always chirping, singing or whispering in ones ears. Thankfully mine is not so severe that it keeps me awake, but it is always present.

If i ride without my earplugs for any appreciable distance, 30 minutes or more, I have to increase the volume on my hearing aids at least two levels once i get off the bike, take the helmet off and insert the hearing aids.

May be anecdotal but it is reality! Do what you want,

Hunh?

What did you say?

Say Again?

Repeat that!

Speak Up,

Quit Mumbling..........

One more thing.....My Sex life has really improved now that my wife doesn't have to shout or repeat herself nearly as much as she used to.

 

RPrice

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My hearing was permanently damaged from 5" Naval Gunfire while standing on the Bridge Wings of the USS Joseph Strauss (DDG-16) as the Weapons Liaison Officer. Had to leave one ear exposed on the S/P phones to hear the Captain, Left ear has a documented severe loss from that one tour of duty, right ear suffered damage as well but not enough for the VA to call it a disability.
I also used to shoot skeet without earplugs, drive and work around both drag race cars and Sprint cars without ear plugs. The open headers on those vehicles surely contributed to my problems today.

Tinnitus, your ever present friend, always chirping, singing or whispering in ones ears. Thankfully mine is not so severe that it keeps me awake, but it is always present.

If i ride without my earplugs for any appreciable distance, 30 minutes or more, I have to increase the volume on my hearing aids at least two levels once i get off the bike, take the helmet off and insert the hearing aids.

May be anecdotal but it is reality! Do what you want,

Hunh?

What did you say?

Say Again?

Repeat that!

Speak Up,

Quit Mumbling..........

One more thing.....My Sex life has really improved now that my wife doesn't have to shout or repeat herself nearly as much as she used to.
+1, It is the truth (about the sex life/hearing aids!)

 

WHS

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Here's my earplug story. I used to just wear the foam type, roll it, insert it and go... Well one day I am riding into Pendelton with my boy. He's on his bike, I'm on my old Beamer... There is a stop sign at a funny intersection, and just down the road in the left hand lane is a big sign that is low to the ground... I pulled up, stopped, looked and started to go. My kid was yelling at me, loud enough that people across the street heard him, I didn't. Needless to say, I couldn't see the car and pulled right out, it was really only luck and a quick reaction to whip the bike sideways that saved my ass. Missed me by inches. I could not hear him, seriously, not a bit. Since we were heading to my favorite gun store, I bought both of us a new pair of shooting ear plugs. Now I can hear when I have to, but it reduces the volume while cruising, they are semi-custom and feel great. In fact, they are designed to just stay in, allowing you to have a conversation at normal levels, but cut out the loud noises. I even leave them in when I stop for a quick drink or just run into a store... Plus, at less than $20, they won't break the bank, but because they do have an actual investment, I am more inclined to take care of them.

And kind of like socks, I still find occasionally find a lone foamy in the drier.

 

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