by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist
In a pilot study, audiologists at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions have measured motorcycle sound levels at the rider’s ears. Over half exceeded 100 dB when throttled up, which is intense enough to cause hearing damage.
The audiologists plan to measure ear level noise at cruising speed to account for engine and wind noise. The goal is to develop an online database to provide motorcyclists with bike-specific data on noise exposure, e.g. make, model, engine size, year manufactured, so riders can make informed decisions about hearing protection. Hearing protection options include regular earplugs, custom-molded earplugs specifically for motorcyclists, and earmuffs or hearing protection built into helmets.
It’s no surprise that motorcycles are harmfully noisy. But I’m disappointed to see the audiologists compare motorcycle noise to NIOSH recommended workplace noise limits. The correct comparison to protect people from noise-induced hearing loss are non-occupational noise limits of 70 dBA daily average exposure or less than 2 minutes at 100 dB.
I hope future research findings will use public-health based noise limits. And while hearing protection is important, I hope findings will help motorcycle source noise control become a priority. The best line of defense to protect rider’s hearing health–and reduce preventable public noise exposure–is to manufacture quieter motorcycles.
Jan L. Mayes is an international Eric Hoffer Award winning author in Non-Fiction Health. She is also a science enthusiast and newly retired audiologist still specializing in noise, tinnitus-hyperacusis, and hearing health. You can read more of Jan’s work at her site, www.janlmayes.com.