Gear and kit

This is why ear plugs are vital on every ride

If you’re a biker you have a far higher chance of damaging your hearing and joining the 11 million people in the UK with some form of hearing loss.

I was chatting with the girls from LadyBiker.co.uk at a motorcycle trade show recently when, a bit randomly, Daisy mentioned that she used to be an Audiologist and that she was keen on bikers understanding the damage wind noise can cause.

Bit spooky the next day then when out of the blue I come across a rather frightening statistic. 1-in-6 Britons have some form of hearing loss. Over 6m people in the UK have tinnitus. Me included.

It’s not pleasant, I have to tell you. Mine takes the form of a constant, extremely high-pitched tone – like the sound a faulty monitor or TV makes when it’s on the way out.

It means I avoid silence as much as I can. At home, I have to have a radio or TV or music on all the time, otherwise, I’ll get a constant reminder. Mine wasn’t caused by riding without earplugs, but by listening to ACDC through earphones. Serves me right, you might be thinking, but from what Daisy tells me, wind noise can be equally as effective at damaging your hearing.

And before we go any further, just to stress how important this is, tinnitus is irreversible. There is currently no known cure.

But if you act now, at least you are reducing the risk of it happening to you.

You need to wear earplugs above 35mph

That’s a shocker, isn’t it? According to Daisy, “You should wear earplugs if you know you are going to ride above 35mph. At 65mph, wind noise easily reaches 103 dB. EU law states that employees must have protection if they are subjected to anything above 80 dB in the workplace. So you can see, even at relatively minor speeds, wind noise inside the helmet can be significant.”

Protection reduces fatigue

Another thing I didn’t realise is that high levels of wind noise can cause fatigue. “It’s tiring without you knowing it,” said Daisy.

“Because you are constantly having to deal with the wind noise you are having to work twice as hard to concentrate on riding. If you get decent protection and remove the wind, you are automatically improving your ability to concentrate.”

Any protection helps

I use those cheap spongy earplugs that come in packs of 30 pairs for around £10. “They’ll work and they are better than nothing at all but they can be a bit uncomfortable on long rides,” says Daisy. That’s true.

“You’re better off getting custom made earplugs. They’re more comfortable and last longer, although the shape of your ear canal changes, so you should look at getting a new fitting every couple of years or so. Don’t go for the cheapo online ones. Go to an audiologist and get them fitted properly. They will be way more comfortable.”

You can also get speakers built into custom-moulded earplugs too, so that you can listen to music or use a two-way comms system in comfort. Just don’t set the volume too high.

Make sure your lid fits

Another thing to consider is the fit of your helmet. The basic spongy earplugs can move around and even work loose – especially when you are putting your lid on. Countless times I’ve found one side starting to become noise because a plug has moved.

So as well as earplugs, make sure you have a properly fitting helmet that offers as little wind ingress as possible. You can read our guide to helmet fitting here.

Get yourself sorted:

See an audiologist about getting proper earplugs made.

A huge thanks for the heads up to Daisy Bell. If you are a female rider or have one in your life, it’s worth contacting Daisy and her team at www.ladybiker.co.uk next time you/they need some new kit – these people know what they’re talking about when it comes to ladies bike clothing.

 

 

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The Author

Ian Malone

Ian Malone

Ian is the Editor and a co-founder of Biker & Bike.

He is obsessed about bikes to the point that he often starts conversations with new people by saying, "Please don't get me onto the subject of bikes. We'll be here all day."

Inevitably, the next question asked is nearly always, "What bike have you got, then?"

He owns five bikes right now:

'78 Kawasaki Z650
'97 Triumph Daytona 955i
'11 Triumph Tiger 800
'09 Yamaha R1
'88 Suzuki TS125X

At any one time, only two of these bikes are ever working, as you can read about on our blog.

Having been on every continent except Antartica (as long as Cuba kind-of qualifies as South America) he is a big fan of travelling. However, to his deep but hopefully not eternal shame, he's only ever explored Europe on two-wheels and only started doing this a few years ago.

His main mission now is to explore as much of the world on two wheels as possible, at the same time as trying out as many new motorcycling experiences as he can and go on to inspire other bikers to do the same.