The Dutch motorcycle magazine Promotor recently published a large-scale motorcycle helmet test. System helmets from different brands underwent an extensive drop test and were also subjected to a wind noise measurement. The study focused on how noise-insulating a motorcycle helmet can affect hearing and if riding without earplugs is an option with a good system helmet.
Hearing damage within a few minutes, even with a helmet
For the wind noise measurement, ten system helmets from different brands and within various price categories were tested. The helmets were tested at speeds of 50 km per hour, 100 km per hour and 150 km per hour. The helmet which was rated best in the test admits 85 decibels (dB) of noise at a speed of 50 km per hour. This is the same as the noise level in a busy playground. At 100 km per hour, the same helmet admits 100 dB. This is even more noise than a hammer drill produces (95 dB). The system helmet with the worst performance in terms of noise attenuation admits 92 dB at a speed of 50 km per hour (comparable with a train speeding past), and at 100 km per hour 106 dB (louder than the noise of a chain saw or in a club).
But what do these decibel numbers mean in terms of risking hearing damage? Your hearing can already become damaged from 80 dB. You can safely stay at a noise level of 80 dB for eight hours a day. Every three decibels more halves this time. So you risk hearing damage at a level of 83 dB after four hours. At 86 dB, you risk permanent hearing damage after only two hours.
In the table below, you see per speed how long you can ride without the risk of hearing damage, which quickly becomes a matter of minutes.
|Speed||Average volume of wind noise under the helmet||Maximum time without risk of hearing damage|
|50 km/h||88 dB||90 minutes|
|100 km/h||103 dB||5 minutes|
|150 km/h||110 dB||1 minute|
Therefore, a system helmet – no matter from which price category or brand – offers insufficient protection on your bike. Even at low speeds your hearing can be subjected to damage in a short time, which is unfortunately permanent and untreatable. Luckily you don’t need to rely on your helmet to prevent hearing damage. More and more motorcyclists are wearing hearing protection. But there is still a long way to go.
Filter earplugs versus foam earplugs
When talking about earplugs, many people think of the standard foam earplugs first. These earplugs are more
economical and of course dampen harmful noise, but nevertheless have a number of drawbacks with respect to
motorcycle filter earplugs.
First of all, foam earplugs completely close the ear canal, so that not only the wind noise is attenuated, but also your navigation system, the intercom and other road traffic. Alpine filter earplugs bring the wind noise back to a safe level with the acoustic filters. Furthermore, the comfort of wearing filter earplugs is considerably better than that of foam earplugs. Foam earplugs irritate ears after a few hours, filter earplugs can be worn for a whole day without any problems. The thermoplastic material offers a high degree of comfort and the earplugs adjust to the ear with your body heat.
Finally, filter earplugs can be used more than 100 times. This is in contrast to foam earplugs, which are not reusable.
Alpine has a range of universal motorcycle filter earplugs with average attenuation and strong attenuation. For the touring rider, there are the Alpine MotoSafe Tour earplugs with average attenuation. For speed demons there are the Alpine MotoSafe Race earplugs with heavier attenuation. Do you want more attenuation on some occasions than others? Then choose the Alpine MotoSafe Pro.
Safer and more relaxed on the road with earplugs
In addition to the fact that motorcycle earplugs protect you from hearing damage, riding with hearing protection offers a number of other advantages. You can concentrate much better on the traffic around you because you are not distracted by the loud noise of the wind. Concentrating on the road also costs you more energy when you are distracted by wind noise. With hearing protection your riding is not only safer but also a lot more relaxed.