I wear plugs do you?
Want to keep riding for the long haul? You need to protect your hearing. Photo by Lance Oliver.
If we live long enough, the day may come (the horror!) when we’re too old and infirm to ride motorcycles. At that point, our greatest motorcycling joy may be when the grandkids say, “Grandpa, tell me again about the time you rode your motorcycle to Alaska and saw a bear.”
If you don’t hear them, and they wander off thinking Grandpa has gotten rude in his old age, you’ll really miss out.
That’s why you, as a rider, need to protect your hearing now.
I’m a major advocate for the use of earplugs. In our recent story by Jed Wheeler, “Seven things I wish someone had told me when I started riding,” there was discussion in the comments section about whether earplugs could reduce safety by preventing the rider from hearing other vehicles. It’s a natural concern, but both audiologists and the experience of many motorcyclists say that concern is unfounded.
But before we get to that, let’s answer the most basic question. Why do we need to worry about our ears, anyway?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommends that workers should not be exposed to sound levels above 85 decibels in an eight-hour work day, and notes that noise levels of 100 decibels become damaging to the ear after just 15 minutes of exposure. Testing done by researchers from the University of South Alabama and William Patterson University, using an acoustically engineered dummy head and microphones, found that at speeds above 40 kph (about 25 mph), wind noise surpassed any noise from the motorcycle. At the highest speed tested, 120 kph (about 74 mph), noise exceeded 100 decibels at all the frequencies they measured.
Put those two facts together and you get this: If you ride your motorcycle at highway speeds for more than 15 minutes without ear protection, you’re damaging your hearing.
And who wants to ride for just 15 minutes?
Certainly not me. As someone who enjoys few things more than a long motorcycle trip, I often spend eight hours, or more, in the saddle. It’s not what most would call a workday, but it’s an equivalent amount of time, so to meet that NIOSH standard, I have to get the full effect of the sound reduction that good earplugs provide.
Our ears are not designed to work at 100 decibels. Humans didn’t evolve in an environment where we were riding motorcycles, operating chain saws, working in factories, etc.
And that’s why earplugs don’t reduce your safety. Earplugs don’t “block out” sounds you need to hear, such as sirens, other vehicles, horns blowing, and so on. They reduce the overall sound pressure so that your ears can operate in a more natural range. This lets you distinguish sounds better. You’re more likely to hear that siren because your ears aren’t overwhelmed with 100+ decibels of pressure.
In my experience, there’s another way wearing earplugs makes you safer. When I began using earplugs many years ago, I immediately noticed that I felt much less fatigued, especially on long rides. We’re all more likely to make mistakes when we’re tired. Using earplugs improves your odds.
I’m not going to tell you. Not because I’m trying to be unhelpful, but just because different solutions work for different individuals. Disposable foam earplugs work fine for most people. I’ve tried other kinds but I’ve always migrated back to that simple solution. The key with foam earplugs is using them correctly. Roll them tight, insert into the ear canal and let them expand to fill the space. If they feel loose, try again. Tugging upward and backward on the top of your ear with one hand while inserting the earplug with the other is helpful for many people because it straightens the ear canal.
Other kinds of earplugs are also available, up to custom-molded plugs made just for you. The good part is that none of the options are expensive, except for the custom-made earplugs, so you can experiment with different kinds and find what works best for you.
The sooner you begin taking steps to preserve your hearing, the better the results will sound.
There are many days since January 30th, 2014, the day my life to me turned upside down that I sit alone in solitude contemplating my future. After my wife left I was lost, there was chaos inside my whole being. Dramatic effect I have never really felt before. Lost and confused I reached out. I had to because I had no ability to defend my self against myself. Intimidating to say the least. I am a type A personality, I usually have control over most things, well…at least I think I do. When I was left after 17 years I had zero control over my emotions. Continue reading
Nothing like getting woken up at 0215 to three dogs barking in the house and then I made the mistake in letting them out and all hell broke loose. We have bears around as well as many other creatures. I did not see anything but the dogs had a scent.
So, innocent looking here Sierra and Cruizer Continue reading
Departure date May 17, 2014 for 30 days. Plan – Vancouver, BC to North Carolina to Long Island, Upstate New York and back. Don’t know the route yet.
I have done quite a few big RR’s and smaller one’s but what makes this one different is I am no longer with my thought to be partner for life Cheryl. Let me back up…Cheryl and I were partners as common law for 15 years before she proposed to me in March 2012. In August of 2013 we had a destination wedding that turned out to be the best day of my life. We shared our relationship with 62 of our closest family and friends over a 2 day party. Continue reading
By Blake Bos
February 16, 2014
As of the most recent report by the Department of Transportation, there were 8,410,255 motorcycles registered in the United States by private citizens and commercial organizations in 2011. To put this staggering number into perceptive, out of every 36 people you meet in the U.S., one of them probably has a motorcycle. For ranking purposes, we won’t be looking at total bikes in a state, but rather people per motorcycle (the lower the number, the more common bikes are). So what states in America have the most die-hard moto-enthusiasts?
3. Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain — Iowa
I love RideApart and their great articles we all can learn from….please visit their web site there is so much to read and learn about….
There you are, riding along, not a care in the world, when your bike starts feeling funny. What does it mean? Here’s what common bike breakdowns feel like. Continue reading
Read the original article at RoadRUNNER
RR: What first interested you in riding motorcycles? Continue reading
Thanks George as always for sending me this link…interesting review, seems pretty honest to me.
Suzuki’s new adventure-tourer is good but feels more the product of sales strategy than any desire to outclass the competition
Great video, great advertisement for Aether Gear…nice gear BTW…
We’ve been a big fan of Aether’s jackets ever since they came on our radar. Why? Because they push function and aesthetics equally and do it better than almost anyone else in the gear business. We also love a good riding video as much as anyone else, and Aether really did this one right. Continue reading
2014 Honda VFR800 Continue reading
For your viewing pleasure. Go WIDE screen, sit back and enjoy this really amazing video! ;-)
from Chris Hollis
‘A Day at Home’.
A digital short showcasing Chris Hollis enjoying some downtime and
a free-ride through the outskirts of his hometown, Port Macquarie NSW Australia.
At 29, Hollis has established himself as one of Australia’s most prominent
Off-Road motorcycle racers. His unique blend of smooth-lines and
calculated-speed make him a favourite to watch, both in and out of the competitive arena.
“A Day at Home” 2013.
Filmed & Edited: Shane Fletcher
Additional Camera Operator: Lee Kelly
Music: M83 “We Own The Sky”.
Pretty good article written by a woman who rides as a passenger…
When Wes isn’t cuddling Sean on a motorcycle, it’s my job. I recently putted a Honda Shadow around a parking lot at the veterans’ center long enough for the nice folks at the MSF to declare me fit to pilot a motorbike, but that hasn’t stopped me from riding as a passenger as often as I can. T Continue reading
Not sure how “scientific” this study was but I believe it’s common sense that females are happy when riding…are they more “fulfilled” than women who don’t ride…again not sure how surveying 1000+ riders and non riders proves anything but good on Harley for planting the seed.