Why Riding with Earplugs is Essential

EPA/KIMIMASA MAYAMA
  • Earplugs are among the essential riding gear.

  • One should always ride with ear protection.

  • High noise levels lead to permanent hearing damage.

Motorcycle-related hearing damage and loss is something which many riders around the world are still not taking seriously. We know this because we hardly see any rider wearing earplugs when they ride, be it when commuting, weekend canyon bombing or even sometimes at the track(!).

Problem is, hearing damage’s progressive and it’s probably too late when one notices it. A constant ringing in the ears is called tinnitus it’s irreversible. Notice how some otai riders talk very loud? Apart from ebullient personality it could well point to hearing damage. Hearing damage also leads to irritability and depression.

What causes it?

The simple answer is noise. Noise levels rise considerably when the speed rises. Noise levels are usually around 85 dB (decibel) when idling in traffic, but that number could hit as high as 115 dB and more when on the move.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published that any sound level above 89 dB can damage one’s hearing. As such, workers should not be exposed to sound levels above 85 dB in an eight-hour workday. Besides that, continuous exposure to 100 dB for 15 minutes will damage hearing.

Let’s compare:
  • City riding between 40 km/h to 80 km/h can produce between 80 to 85 dB.
  • Noise goes up to 100 dB when riding at 100 km/h.
  • It’ll hit 110 dB when riding at 150 km/h.

Of course, the numbers differ according to the type of helmet you wear and your bike’s wind protection, but they are still high no matter what.

What earplugs should I use?

The best we’ve tried are “smart” earplugs that filter out certain frequencies. For example, NoNoise and Pinlock (yes, Pinlock) earplugs maintain the noise level at 85 dB, while you can still hear the traffic, your bike’s engine note and speech. These characteristics are useful for every riding scenario as you can wear them when commuting or during high speed blasts. But these are usually expensive.

There are inexpensive foam earplugs in the market but they tend to filter out too much.

The choice is yours but never, ever ride without earplugs.

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