At least in India, an earplug would be the last thing any bike rider would be considering to purchase. We are so ignorant to the fact that riding in highways at high speed can and WILL cause permanent ear damage.
Don’t believe me? Let’s see.
Take a look at the below table. Source
|Noise Level (dBA)||Maximum Exposure Time per 24 Hours|
|140||< 1 second|
So, from the table you can see that for 100dbA sound, your ear can withstand up to 15 minutes and if you get exposed for more than that, you will cause hearing damage.
There have been many studies conducted on how much noise is generated by the airflow during a motorcycle ride.
But I don’t ride fast. Do I need to be worried?
Short answer : Yes, kind of. Depending on how fast and how long you ride
All these studies show excessive wind noise around the helmet—about 90 dB(A) at 60 km/h and increasing linearly when plotted against the log of speed, to reach 110 dB(A) at 160 km/h.
if you are riding at 60km/h, the noise levels are about 90dBA (Maximum 2 hours safe) at around 85km/h, the noise levels reach 95dBA ( less than 1 hour ) And, at 110km/h, the noise levels are well over 100dBA.
Alright, but I have a very good helmet, I don’t have to worry about it?
Let’s quote the same study
In addition our group has measured the sound attenuation characteristics of various motorcycle helmets. Modern helmets, we found, offered very poor low-frequency sound attenuation and we also demonstrated a phenomenon of resonance at 250 Hz. The source proved to be a turbulent boundary layer, vibrating against the outside of the helmet shell, with its maximum sound energy focused between 250 and 500 Hz.
So, if you have a very good helmet, yes, it might help and reduce the dangers a bit. It does not completely eliminate it.
If you are riding at 100km/h for 5 hours, with a very good helmet, you still need hearing protection
Here is the thing about hearing loss : It’s cumulative. Each time you go on a motorcycle ride, it adds up. And few years down the line, it becomes a huge damage.
Alright, I’m sold. What now?
I never used earplugs while riding my bike even at high speeds for longer periods of time (120+km/h for 8+hours)
And I started getting ear pain. If I get exposed to loud noise, I can hear ringing noise on my left ear and I will have to close my ear with my hand or move away from the noise
Later I got to know the dangers of riding without earplugs and how it can damage your ears. And found that earplugs are the best solution.
There are different kinds of earplugs you can get. They are very cheap and you can carry in your riding jacket’s pocket.
Question: How will I hear other vehicles and honks?
The earplug does not make everything completely silent. It just reduces the overall noise level. That means you can still hear your surroundings, but not very loudly.
Basically, you don’t miss out on anything that’s important. Mostly the white noise created by the wind.
On a different note, you can see what’s in front of you and you have rear view mirrors. You should not be relying too much on your ears while riding.
The other good things about earplugs
Earplugs helps you not only by protecting your ear drums, but it reduces the fatigue too. I’m talking this from my personal experience. While wearing the earplugs, you won’t get tired that fast
When you try out earplugs for the first time, it will feel weird. But that’s okay, you will get used to ear sooner than you think and your future self will thank you for making the decision to wear earplugs.