Motorcycle Riders and Hearing Loss

Excessive noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, one of the main causes of hearing loss in the western world. Motorcycle riders, such as yours truly, are at particular risk unless adequate protection is used and sensible judgment is taken. Whether you are a weekend only rider or a rider by occupation, the risk is real.

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by prolonged exposure to damaging sounds over a certain time period. The 'time period' in question to cause damage is determined by the length of exposure and the level of noise (measured in decibels/dB).

Causes of Excess Noise For Motorcycle Riders

Exhaust Noise

Exhaust sound and in particular aftermarket race exhaust without a baffle could easily top 105dB. It is unlikely that exhaust sound on its own will lead to hearing loss due to its position behind the rider at the back of the motorcycle, however when taken into account with other factors the risk grows.

Wind Noise

The faster the rider and motorcycle are moving, the more wind noise plays a factor in the overall risk assessment. At 70mph wind noise can exceed 100dB. It is thought that exposure to 100 decibels for only two hours can lead to hearing loss.


Both the shape of the helmet and the fit will affect the level of noise. An open face helmet will provide less noise protection compared to a full-face helmet that has been well fitted. Incidentally a full-face helmet that is too big in size will provide less noise protection.

How To Reduce The Risk

Disposable Earplugs

There are a number of noise protection aids designed to reduce the levels of exposure. These noise protection aids will never completely eliminate noise, but rather reduce by a certain amount of db. Disposable earplugs of good quality carry a maximum noise reduction rating of 20 db.

Custom Made Earplugs

Moulded earplugs differ from disposable earplugs by their fit that is individual to the particular ear canal shape of the wearer. Priced around £100, they are regarded as more comfortable, long lasting and easier to take in and out.

Quieter Helmet

An average full-face helmet measures 93.5dB at 70mph, however in the world of full-face helmets some are quieter than others. The Schuberth S1 made by German firm Schuberth measures only 85dB at 70mph, but at around £400 it might be outside the budget of some riders.

Well-Fitted Helmet

One that has been fitted well in terms of size will provide better noise protection regardless of the brand. A well-fitted helmet should fit snugly because with time it will mould to your precise face shape. The size of the helmet should correspond with the size of your head, which you should measure in cm. If unsure ask your local motorcycle shop assistant for their advice. Ride safely!

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