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Should you wear earplugs when riding?

Should you wear earplugs when you ride? Let’s talk about it.

Noise induced hearing loss can be caused in two ways:

  1. a once-off exposure to an intense sound like an explosion, or
  2. continuous, prolonged exposure to loud sounds overtime.

Sources: |

Just like you’d wear sunscreen if you were going to be outside in the sun all day to protect your skin, it’s also beneficial to wear earplugs when riding, and here’s why.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIH), “long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dBA can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for NIHL to happen.”

According to a journal article on “Hearing Loss in Motorcyclists: Occupational and Medicolegal Aspects” written by Andrew W McCombe, pro-longed exposure to loud noise (specifically, wind-noise) was shown to cause hearing loss in motorcyclists.

They review other published reports that tested sound levels under the helmet, and all showed that wind noise started at about 90 dBA going at only 60km/h (37.3 miles), and increased linearly the faster the motorcycle travels.

A study conducted by M C Lower, D W Hurst & A Thomas, found that wearing foam earplugs showed a reduction of noise between 8-16 dBA. They also found the same level of effectiveness from wearing a flying helmet that contained earmuffs with active noise reduction. But the former is a more accessible option of protection.

Does wearing earplugs impair your ability to be alert to your surroundings?

Earplugs come in different levels of noise reduction ratings (NRR) which determine the level of decibels the earplugs will filter out. What works best for you will depend on your existing level of hearing and the type of noise you are trying to filter out.

I personally find that it makes it easier for me to concentrate, and I am more alert to my surroundings and less fatigued without the constant hum of wind-noise.

This might be different if you’re just cruising around town at slower speeds, but more relevant on longer rides or on highways.

Hearing loss may not be noticeable immediately, but prolonged exposure to loud noises overtime can damage your hearing or cause tinnitus.

Whether you choose to wear ear protection at the end of the day is entirely up to you. But take what you will with this and ride safe, always 🙂


Noise-Induced Hearing Loss 2022, NIDCD,

CDC 2024, What Causes Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, Loud Noises Can Cause Hearing Loss,

McCombe, AW 2003, ‘Hearing loss in motorcyclists: occupational and medicolegal aspects’, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, vol. 96, SAGE Publishing, no. 1, pp. 7–9,

M.C. Lower, D.W. Hurst, A.R. Claughton and A. Thomas, 1994, ‘Sources and levels of noise under motorcyclists’ helmets’. Proceedings of the Institute of Acoustics, 16, pt 2, 319-326. ISBN 1 873082 59 2,

M.C. Lower, D.W. Hurst and A. Thomas, 1996, ‘Noise levels and noise reduction under motorcyclists’ helmets’ Proceedings of Internoise ’96, Book 2, 979 – 982,

Other noteworthy discussions:

5. Yammie Noob – Things I Wish I Knew BEFORE Riding Motorcycles (Part 2)

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