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The Silent Danger - Why Ear Protection Is Vital

Posted on Apr 01, 2016


Motorcycle season is almost upon us, and for many motorcycle riders it’s time to get back in the saddle. Making sure both you and the bike are prepared is imporant, as over the long winter both mind and machine can rust. For many of us, being prepared means going over our gear like checking helmets, inspecting leathers and seeing if our boots will last one more season. However, one often overlooked piece of safety gear is hearing protection.


Hearing loss is a silent threat that can impact motorcyclists of all types and ages. OSHA defines 85 decibels (dB) as the sound level at which permament hearing damage is possible, and 130 dB as the average pain threshold for sound. Wind noise over 40 mph (regardless of bike type) becomes the predominant sound for riders.  Even with a full-face helmet, wind buffeting at highway speeds can reach noise levels in excess of 100 dB, roughly the same level as a chainsaw. Riders not wearing a helmet are at the greatest risk, with noise levels multiplying up to  10 times (110 dB).

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health,


Running the Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), unprotected exposure to 100 dB can cause permanent hearing loss after 1.25 cumulative hours over a 1-week period. And at 110 dB, permanent damage can occur in as little as 5 (cumulative) minutes. The ear absorbs noise like a shock wave inside the ear canal and the eardrum converts air waves (sound) into physical vibrations that impact three small bones in the middle ear (the hammer, anvil and stirrup). The vibrations then travel to the fluid-filled bone structure (cochlea) of the inner ear, which is connected to small hairlike cells called stereocilia. The stereocilia turns the vibrations’ mechanical stimuli into electrical stimuli, which is what stimulates our auditory nerves. After prolonged exposure, these cilia can become fatigued, and if intense enough, irreversibly damanged.

Wikimedia Commons:


Ounce of Prevention

Symptoms of stereocilia damage include a ringing in the ears called tinnitis, plugged ears, trouble distinguishing sounds from background noise and reduced hearing. If these symptoms don’t subside, the effects are permanent. Although hearing loss is permanent, it is preventable. All earplugs come with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). OTC foam earplugs will typically have 32 dB of sound reduction, and flanged earplugs’ sound reduction will be closer to 26, when used properly. Custom earplugs offer higher levels of protection and, depending on the type, typically run anywhere from $100-$150.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons


At Hupy and Abraham S.C., we encourage you to have fun and to be safe in everything you do. As the motorcycle season approaches, remember to take all possible precautions. Help spread the motorcycle safety awareness message by ordering your free Watch For Motorcycles sticker here.


Written By: Melissa Juranitch