So you've got the full kit to protect your body against the elements and any mishaps - have you thought about protecting your hearing as well? A lot of people don't consider this when hopping on their bike but please look through this article if only to keep yourself up to date.
- Damage to your hearing can occur gradually over time, sometimes without you even realising it. Once the damage is done it is irreversible.
- It may surprise you that studies have shown that the greatest damage is done by wind noise and not the motorcycle alone.
- Wind noise can get up to 103dB Decibels at 65MPH - to put this into perspective, EC Regulations require that employees be given adequate hearing protection if they are subjected to 80dB in their work. So extra caution needed on the motorway.
- Always wear protection if you ride at 35 MPH or above, preferably before you even start the engine.
- Custom made ear protection offers the best reduction in wind noise, the disposable foam plugs are better than nothing but are no substitute for made-to-measure.
- Buy custom made ear protection from a qualified hearing care professional in person, don't be tempted to go cheap by buying online, you may come to regret it.
- Decide if you need Comms built in before you order your devices. It's too late once they're made.
- Hearing protection also reduces fatigue caused by high levels of noise and in turn improves concentration especially on a longer ride - but most importantly it preserves your valuable hearing.
WHICH TYPE TO CHOOSE?
There are a variety of earplugs on the market and they mainly fall into 3 categories:
1. Off-the-shelf Earplugs
A number of off the shelf products exist from various companies that can be easily purchased. They come in two formats, a very soft sponge material that is compressed and inserted into the ear or a conical shaped plug made of soft plastic. These produce effective noise reduction as long as they are inserted correctly following the manufacturers instructions. Incorrect insertion can have a massive impact on the effectiveness of these earplugs. See 'Next Steps' below for a free information sheet on how to ensure you're fitting them correctly.
2. Custom Earplugs
These are a made-to-measure item, this involves the simple and painless procedure of having a cast/impression of your ears taken by an audiologist using a soft silicone material. The casts are then sent away for manufacture and a bespoke earplug is made. The advantages of these are that
they produce a consistent level of noise reduction when they are fitted as they are moulded individually for you. They are generally more comfortable to wear with a helmet as the profile is flatter and no parts protrude from the ear. Although more expensive, the custom product will last significantly longer than
the off the shelf items.
3. Advanced Communication Earplugs
These are similar to the custom products with the additional benefit of being able to connect to your onboard communication system - that could be a music system, personal MP3 player or rider to pillion two way communication system. A small speaker unit is placed within the custom earplug. Strong headphone wires are also moulded in the plug and routed to ensure they do not become uncomfortable whilst the helmet is worn. These are the most expensive of the earplugs with all the bells and whistles and will cost you over £100.
With any custom plugs, be aware the ear canal itself changes shape over time so it would be well worth having a new pair made every few years otherwise unwanted sounds will start to get in.
What you choose, is entirely up to you but we would encourage everyone to use something. You've a whole lifetime to listen, so listen well and look after your ears.
You can make an appointment on your Hight Street normally - many Opticians now offer Audiology services, plus there's a wealth of highly regulated independent hearing shops you could book in with. This first step is an assessment - sometimes these are free, otherwise there may be a small charge.
We appreciate the input of Peter Jones, Clinical Director at Hearing Matters, Cheshire, Tim Cleave, Audiologist at Acousticare, Dorest and Chris Carr, Head Audiologist at Hearing Healthcare, Cambridge in compiling this information for you.