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Hearing and Ear Plugs

Guest LaurenM89

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Hi all,

As an Degree student Audiologist working in the NHS, I basically make a living out of people who have hearing problems! I started a thread about setting up a stall to sell custom made ear plugs, and I'm still looking into but got asked to write a bit about biking and hearing, spec wind noise so here goes....

Studies have shown that at around 50mph, the level of noise reaching the ear, that's both wind noise and traffic noise can be up to 95dB(a)*

Obviously the quicker you go (lets be honest who dawdles around at 50mph!!!) the more wind noise there is, some studies showing that at 80mph, the noise exceeds 107dB(a)

The bottom line is, any loud sound can damage your hearing, but some people are more inclined to that damage than others. Another thing prolonged exposure to loud sounds can cause is the dreaded tinnitus, but again, this is a very grey area! As a general rule, 140dB sound will damage hearing instantly and causes pain. Anything over 85dB should be avoided as prolonged exposure can damage hearing, not to mention be very off putting

The way the ear works... (the science bit)


The way the ear works is to transfer the sound vibrations in the air, into electrical impulses in the brain which are interpreted as sound and we "hear". The cochlea is the bit inside that transfer the movement, into the impulses via hair cells which float around and detect movement in the fluid within the cochlea. The high frequency end of the cochlea is at the start, with the low frequency at the end.

In old age, around 70% of us can expect to have a natural high frequency hearing loss. If you think of the cochlea as your hall carpet, this isnt surprising, because the high frequency end is near the door, it gets walked on more frequently, therefore gets trashed quicker. This leads to the traditional problems of being fine 1 to 1, but in group situations being able to hear that someone is talking, but not work out what they are saying. In other words its a clarity issue as its the high frequencies that make up the beginings and ends of words.

So do I need to wear ear protection?

The bottom line is, its up to you. You could be a lucky one, go out every day and never have a problem or you could have problems later on. The thing with hearing is, you dont notice you have a problem until it gets bad, and starts affecting your life / communication. This can be months / years later

I want to protect my hearing what can I do?

First and best advise is to have a good fitting helmet! A lot of helmet manufacturers now-a days are making helmets which reduce wind noise. If you can afford it, go with these. See what people have written on the net about the wind noise etc before you buy it

Ear plugs themselves come in 2 types:

Disposable - Generally these offer pretty good protection and are cheap. Look for how much attenuation they offer, this is basically how much they dull the sound. The more the better. Downside to these is most of them are one use only then throw away (some you can get for longer), so depending on how many rides you go on a year, can get expensive. Some people also find wearing these uncomfortable.


Custom Moulded - These again offer pretty good protection, generally better than the disposable ones, but are more expensive. The upside is, they should last around 2 - 3 years and should be extremely comfortable to wear provided the person that takes the impression knows what they are doing. For these, make sure the person taking the impression knows what they are doing! Its actually a very risky procedure, but you don't have to be qualified to do it! Like the disposable ones there are many types and colours available, some with filters some without.


If its too late and you think your struggling with your hearing, go see your GP. He'll refer you on to your local Audiology or ENT department to get checked out. Hearing aids on the NHS now are discrete, long gone are the days of big boxes and ear trumpets, and digital, so don't be drawn into spending £1000's before you see what the NHS has to offer


Any problems, queries or questions feel free to contact me


* The (a) bit refers to a weighting scale, using some fancy physics, so its not the same as a 80dB hearing loss for example!

Edited by Anonymous
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Wow thank you for that comprehensive post. My dad is partially deaf in both ears and has been all my life. Many a time has the battery run out in his hearing aid whilst hes been on a night out and ive had to go to his rescue with a battery.. He said been deaf is awful :(

As a student social worker we did a brief lecture on the different types of hearing loss and how to communicate. Found it very interesting.

Thanks Jason :thumb:

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..whattttttttttt ..speak upppppp ...

great post and thanks ..

work with chainsaws etc all day long and yes have noticed a drop in my hearing over the years .its not severe but i find people who talk very quiet hard to hear .. i can hear there saying something but hard to dechiper the actual words .....

worst part for me with riding the bike is if i use earplugs i find it too cocooned and hate the feeling of not being able to hear the bike itself .............

i make sure especially on motorway/dual carriageway /long high speed journeys that i do all i can to reduce wind noise ( thicker neckwarmer that covers my ears ... the screen i use iis a taller screen that diverts the wind up more to reduce the wind effect ...

i also have music playing in the helmet that breaks up the monotinous tone ...

but i know that as i get older the worse it will get ...

until that day ......

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's a sliding scale though. You can get ear plugs that only mildly attenuate the sound. Some ear plugs have interchangeable filters so that you can decide when you put them in, how much reduction you want. If you are just going around town use mild and for motorways something stronger. They're not much. £10-£20.

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  • 3 weeks later...

i've suffered from tinnitus for well over 20 years now. i cant remember what it was like to hear complete silence :( takes me a while to fall asleep at night as it becomes more noticeable with the lack of any other sounds to mask the noise, so i usually listen to some music, ambient sounds or comedy on my mp3 player til i fall asleep.

for the bike i used to use the disposable earplug type, but found them to be a bit insecure once put in the ear. i looked online and found the motosafe alpine style of insert which i've used for a few years and never had any problems with. they block out the wind noise but let me hear anyone talking, the engine and also the commands from my satnav headset.

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Never used to use far plugs couldn't do with them, then decided to use them for motorway journey's.

I dont use them for my trip to work tho now but i cant be without them on a ride out!

still trying to Wangle some custom fit ones from work, but we do have hearing tests regularly tho as well.

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I use the disposable ones, around £10 for a pack of 50 or something. Pretty good, although with the amount of miles I ride I'll probably invest in some moulded ones at some point.

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I had a loan of a Shoei 'whisper strip' for my XR1000 over a weekend last year and it was brilliant at reducing wind noise. I've been using all sorts of ear defenders over the years and consider the ear canal type of earphone the best, particularly the Sennheiser CX300.

Bonus with the whisper strip is you don't have to use any ear bungs at all as it's stopping/reducing the wind noise at source! I have just bought myself a wisper strip for £20 and am half thinking of adapting some noise cancelling headphones to fit in the helmets padding to reduce even more what noise does get through. It's not rocket science to adapt and won't need music playing to reduce or mask the noise 8-)

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Hi All, sorry about the no action, been busy at work the past month and been neglectiing the internet rather :)

The guy with Tinnitus, if you want any advice, PM me, sounds like your doing most of the best things already :)

All the best ya'll

Jason and Lauren

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erm i just realise that i get tinitus too! lol didn't know what it was, just knew that it happened after riding at motorway speed or being at concerts etc. I wear ear plugs when riding aswell, cheapo ones. Might buy proper one

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If you get tinnitus after concerts or riding on the motorway, its perfectly normal. No one knows for deffo what causes it, but its thought to be an overstimulation of the cells inside the ear that do the hearing (the inner and outer hair cells)

Can cause whats called temp threshold shift as well, where by the ear because of the loud sound, becomes less sensitive to sound for a short time, so you struggle to hear things for a couple of minutes - The classic is coming in from a nightclub and you think you've been really quiet, so's not to wake the parents / other half, where as actually your shouting and walking like a bull in china shop! :D

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The classic is coming in from a nightclub and you think you've been really quiet, so's not to wake the parents / other half, where as actually your shouting and walking like a bull in china shop! :D


thats the alchohol :lol: :lol:

im really considering these custom ear plugs :)

want me to test some for free :mrgreen:

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  • 4 weeks later...


sorry everyone - kinda disappeared off the edge of the earth for a while, was finishing off my exams. :D

Anyways hope you are all well!

Gunna have a chat with J tonight (the actual biker) and see where we go from here cuz we've had some really good feedback and we thank you all for it :)



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Being a science teacher at a local school, today we did sensory receptors and hearing. I got out the frequency generator and started playing with it, its amazing how terrible your hearing is (i'm 27) compared to the year 9 kids. they were laughing at me, but I was saying this is how a deaf person must feel. It was a very sobering feeling to say the least.


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