Why Wear Ear Plugs?

There has always been the ongoing debate about wearing helmets to protect your head while riding. Even eye protection has now reached designer status with riding glasses costing in excess of $140. But one thing that seems to have been forgotten, or at least never discussed, is hearing loss due to the lack of ear protection.

About a year ago I started noticing a nasty ringing in my ear after taking short trips at highway speeds. In fact, I even started noticing some hearing loss in my left ear. (I think it is only coincidence that is the one that Mrs. Cyclerides talks into while riding.) In the beginning it only seemed to be selective hearing loss. For example, when Mrs. C. would ask me to take out the trash, that message would not always be audible to me. But when she would say dinner is ready, that transmission never seemed to fail. Or when she would start to mention real estate enhancement projects on the weekend...yea, you guessed it, nothing. It would always come through garbled and unrecognizable. But within minutes if she would suggest taking a little ride on the bikes, I could miraculously hear that request. Oh,wait a minute! I must have gotten off on the "20 years of marriage hearing loss". That's a completely different issue. One that I know about, but only Oprah is equipped to handle.

But seriously, wind damage to the ears is a real matter. I'm sure everyone has experienced ringing in your ears after a long unprotected ride on the bike--it's called tinnitus. Usually this is temporary, but exposure to loud or continuous noise can cause permanent damage. According to Larry Dove, American Iron Magazine, March 2002: "Believe it or not, loud noise affects the heart even more. According to doctors, blood vessels constrict, pressure rises, and cholesterol and triglycerides also go up. Loud sound also can affect the level of white blood cells and gamma globulin in the bloodstream, lowering the efficiency of the immune system".

Tests have shown that if you are exposed to noises above 105 DB, your hearing can be damaged by repeated 15 minute journeys. An article, Sound Advice, by David Marr (Road Rider, January 1987), mentions an interesting measurement of sound decibels (dB) measured at three speeds. Marrís results were:
1. Idling, 74 dB
2. 35 mph mixed city traffic, between 110-114 dB
3. Highway speeds average for a 10-mile run, 116 dB
4. Itís interesting to note that helmets reduced the sound by only 3 DB in Dave's study.

All of the hearing loss statistics aside, it is just way more comfortable riding with ear plugs. It seems to make riding a lot smoother and doesn't seem to wear you out as much on longer trips. I always say it is like going from a VW bus with the windows down to a Lexus 400. I was just wearing them on highway trips, but with all of the new freeways around here, I have been using them most of the time now. Some people think that they will block out horn noises, sirens or even your radio. But I have had no trouble with any of those. They seem to work like medicines. They blocks out the bad noise and leaves the good ones. I have used everything from the disposable foam type to the reusable silicon models. The best earplugs I have use are the molded earplugs from
AZ Ear Protection. These are molded right to your ears and are great. You can also get the molded earplugs that have speakers in them that you can plug into an MP3 player. Call 480-998-9888 for more information. Click here to read the entire story from American Iron Magazine.

I have to report that after wearing ear plugs for the last several months that my hearing has not fully returned to normal. There are still certain commands that are undecipherable to my ears, but I feel a lot better and don't have the ringing after a long ride. Give them a try.