12 February 2018


If you’ve ever seen kids plug their ears when the motorcycles ride by in a parade, one fact is obvious: motorcycles are loud. They’re not just loud in a way that makes conversation hard, they can be painfully loud if you’re close enough. To many motorcycle riders, the noise is part of what makes riding a motorcycle so cool. But what they might not realize is that without hearing protection, you could be seriously damaging your hearing.

This guide explains the potential harm of riding a motorcycle without hearing protection and it also shares some helpful tips for protecting your hearing. If you need motorcycle riding equipment, parts or service for your bike, or are in the market for a new bike altogether, stop by our Tucson, Arizona dealership and showroom. We proudly serve Green Valley, Sierra Vista, and Tombstone, Arizona, and we can help you find everything you need.


The fact that a motorcycle is loud is inescapable, but just how loud can they get? The Department of Transportation limits the sound emissions from a motorcycle to 88 decibels when measured 50 feet away. That’s about as loud as a lawnmower, and that noise is much louder when you get on top of the thing. But that’s not the most damaging part of riding a motorcycle, as far as your hearing is concerned. It’s actually much louder to ride on the highway. As you ride, the wind will be forced into your ear canals at a volume that can exceed 90 decibels at just 60 km/h. If you get up to 160 km/h—about 100 mph—you’ll be experiencing 110 decibels of noise, enough to do serious damage to your ears. One strange phenomenon some researchers have discovered is that a motorcycle helmet doesn’t significantly reduce the amount of noise heard by the rider. On top of that, it might actually do damage of its own because the helmet can vibrate as you ride at a frequency that’s potentially damaging in and of itself.


If you want to protect your hearing while on the road, you have a few options. The most effective hearing protection is a pair of over the ear flight deck style ear muffs. These reduce a huge amount of noise and stay in place, but they don’t work particularly well with helmets. In-ear hearing protection is a much better option for riding with a helmet. While on the job site, earplugs that are connected by a band or lanyard are helpful because they make it so hearing protection is always at hand. But again, a helmet makes these features impractical at best. The best option may be the typical inexpensive variety of foam earplugs. These fit almost any shape of an ear canal and can reduce volume levels by up to 30 decibels. They will also stay in place inside a helmet and are unlikely to do any damage to your ears if they get pushed in too hard.


If you’re going to use hearing protection, you should take the time to do it correctly. Incorrectly used hearing protection won’t be as effective, and if you’re using an earplug with a stem for insertion and removal, it could get jammed into your ear canal. If you go for the cheap foam earplug route, start by taking the earplug and roll it back and forth in your fingers to squish it into a more helpful size. Once it’s fully compressed, take your opposite hand and reach it over the top of your head and pull on the top of your ear. This will open up your ear canal so you can slide the earplug in. Repeat the process with the opposite earplug. Make sure to let the earplugs expand for a minute or so so that they can be firmly in place before you pull your helmet on. You might want to keep a small bag of these in your saddlebag so that you always have a pair on hand.

Don’t put your hearing at risk for another day! Go out and pick up a pack of earplugs and feel the difference between riding with and without hearing protection. When you need a new bike or service for your current one, stop by Tucson Harley-Davidson. Located in Tucson, we proudly serve Green Valley, Sierra Vista, and Tombstone, Arizona.


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