Your ears live a hard life. Aside from the abuse suffered at all those rock ‘n roll shows as a teenager, your ears are one of the few parts of your body that don’t have the ability to regenerate and heal themselves. The result is that, over time, your hearing steadily declines until you’re old and gray and yelling “speak up young man!” to your grandson (at least that’s what happened to my grandfather).
The sad part is, there’s nothing you can do about lost hearing, once it’s gone it’s gone. When sound waves enter your ear they cause your eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations are carried by fluid to thousands of tiny hairs deep in your inner ear. The hairs are connected to the auditory nerve, which then sends a signal off to your brain to interpret. Loud noises can break, kill, or otherwise harm these fragile follicles. And, since we’re born with a finite number and they don’t grow back, this damage is irreversible.
Recently I saw a football game in which the crowd noise reached a Guinness World Record setting 137.6 decibels (sounds around 140db and above can cause hearing loss even with ear protection), very close to the level of noise produced by a jet engine. (On a side note, an interesting read is why 194db is the loudest continuous sound possible.) Since even noise around the 85-90 decibel level can cause impairment, I cringed at the thought of what was happening to the hearing of the tens of thousands of people in that stadium.
As motorcyclists, we have to take great care in protecting our ears. Simply the wind noise at highway speeds can easily reach dangerous levels, and the longer your exposure the greater the injury. I’ll admit that it has taken me too long to realize the danger riding a motorcycle poses to my ears, but I now never put on my helmet without first inserting ear plugs. The good news is, while the price of most motorcycle protective gear easily climbs into the hundreds, and even thousands of dollars, preserving your hearing only costs a few cents. Sure, you can spend quite a bit of money for specially made earplugs, and these work great, but even the cheap, foam plugs can reduce the noise entering your ears by 30db or more.
At RoadRUNNER we strongly encourage every motorcyclist to wear all the protective gear possible, and that protection should go beyond guarding from crash related injuries and extend to preserving our hearing. After all, you do want to be able to hear your grandkids, right?
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