A new study, “Motorcycle helmets and the frequency dependence of temporary hearing threshold shift,” indicates that motorcycle helmets may be contributing to hearing loss, despite helmets covering ears from the high-speed wind noise.
While the roar of a motorcycle engine is loud, studies have revealed that the biggest source of noise for motorcyclists is generated by air whooshing over the riders’ helmets. Even at legal speeds, the wind sound can exceed safe decibel levels.
Researchers from the University of Bath and Bath Spa University have mapped the airflow and noise patterns for motorcyclists by placing helmets on top of mannequin heads, then mounting these in a wind tunnel and turning on the fans. By placing microphones at different locations around the helmet and at the mannequin’s ear, the researchers found that an area underneath the helmet and near the chin bar is a significant source of the noise that reaches riders’ eardrums. Future tests will move beyond the wind tunnel to real-life riders on the open road.
The findings, described in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, may one day be used to design quieter helmets, saving riders’ ears for the enjoyment of hard biker rock, the researchers say. In the mean time, our doctors suggest that motorcyclists consider obtaining custom earplugs to wear underneath their helmets. To learn more about the ear-protection available visit our website.