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A Sound Decision

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February 19, 2013 by Rider Newsletter Staff

 

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Should you wear ear protection while riding?

Smart bikers use protective equipment. It’s pretty much a no-brainer. Your brain, skin, eyes and vital organs are very precious to you. So is your hearing. It’s not something you might think of often, but if you’re a rider “of a certain age” you may have already lost quite a lot of your ability to hear. Over the years, band rehearsals, concerts, drag races and a noisy world have taken their toll.

As a rider, your world is not a silent one. It’s not really the noise of the engine – although it can be. If you’re riding at highway speeds, with or without a helmet, your ears are being buffeted by wind at levels in excess of 100 decibels. Add to that the sound of traffic, reverberations inside tunnels, sirens and just plain old noise; and you can find your ears ringing and your head spinning in no time.

On a long ride, the ongoing noise can actually make you feel tired and disoriented. Your inner world changes when you get off the bike after several hours in the saddle and even experienced riders can feel a bit odd. Add to that the inability to hear what anyone is saying, and things can get strange. The problem is, each time you subject your ears to excessive noise, it takes a toll. The results are cumulative, so your hearing will get worse and worse over time. You may not even realize it until you’ve lost enough to negatively affect your life.

The truth is that whether you already have hearing loss or not, it’s vitally important to protect your ears from loud noises particularly over extended periods of time. The solution, of course, is to wear some sort of ear protection every time you ride. As with any motorcycle accessory, the choices are vast. The simplest solution is to head over to your local drugstore and buy a package of inexpensive, disposable foam earplugs. For a few bucks, you’ll get several pairs.

At the other end of the price/quality spectrum are customized silicone earplugs. Typically, you visit an audiologist to be fitted for these, but there are some DIY kits available. Basically, they fill your outer ear canal with a thick liquid that solidifies in the exact shape of each ear. If you like to wear audio earphones, those can be included as well. Just be ready to pony up two to three hundred bucks. Given the cost of many other biking accessories, this should not be a huge shocker; and the added comfort may be worth it.

Wearing earplugs for the first time, you may be surprised to find that you can still hear the world around you. A good set will lower the sound level to something similar to driving in an enclosed automobile. If you have a passenger onboard; however, you’ll have to settle for hand signals because you probably won’t be able to communicate verbally. Combine custom made earphones with a communications system and that problem is easily solved.

Hopefully, our message is coming through loud and clear: protecting your hearingon the bike is important, easy and can be low in cost. Why wouldn’t you?

 

Check out these links for more information:

This article from Soundrider.com describes one rider’s experience with ear protection.

A brief but interesting story from motorcycle-intelligence.com

This Los Angeles Times story talks about customized silicon ear plugs.

Rider Magazine online has an excellent overview and buyer’s guide here.

 

*An important note: It may not be legal to ride with earplugs in your state. Check your local laws.

 


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