motorcycles, travel, friendship, respect… I may drift off into WTF-land at times so hang in there.

What’s That? Speak Up?


I listened to a lot of music growing up; AC-DC, The Angels, Van Halen, Aerosmith, Rose Tattoo, Zeppelin, Purple, the list goes on.

I went to see a lot of pub bands and concerts too. Where standing as close to the stage as possible was expected, lest you be called a woose*.

I mean, the louder the better right?

I also worked in the mental… err… metal fabrication industry. It wasn’t unusual to have a sheet of 10mm (3/8″) plate crash to the ground just behind me, or to be using air tools, steam hammers or plasma cutters without hearing protection.

Ear muffs?

Pfft. My ears weren’t cold, what’s the point.

Besides it wasn’t “cool”

I Used This 1500 Ton Davy Press As An Apprentice (Photo: Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops, Sydney - Teaching and Educational Standards NSW)

I Worked At This 1500 Ton Davy Press As An Apprentice (Photo: Eveleigh Locomotive Workshops, Sydney – Courtesy Teaching and Educational Standards NSW)

Well… when you think about it, there was a point.

An 80 – 125dB(A)* noise level for most of the working day wasn’t unusual, and I can’t remember how many times I’d come home from work, or a night out, and my ears were ringing or felt furry inside.

I didn’t realise it at the time, but my ears were telling me they had had enough, and were getting permanently damaged in the process.

Where am I going with this?

OK, so you work in a library, orifice or some other non-industrial environment. Have you thought about the noise in your lid at 100 km/h (60 mp/h)?

In an article published by The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health on Noise Induced Hearing Loss in Occupational Motorcyclists; Jordan, Hetherington, Woodside and Harvey state that:

Full face helmets provided average noise levels of 88.3 dB(A) at 50 km/h (31 mp/h) up to 103.6 dB(A) at 120 km/h (75 mp/h). While the open face helmets provided average noise levels of 87.2 dB(A) at 50 km/h up to 98.5 dB(A) at 120 km/h.

The average noise level increased by approximately 2.1 dB(A) per 10 km/h increase in speed.

Did you notice open face lids are quieter than a full face?

Jordan, Hetherington, Woodside and Harvey also found that:

The dominant noise source was the base of helmet between the chin bar and the neck of the rider.


The addition of a fairing actually increased the noise levels of the helmets.

The last two points took me by surprise, because I always thought that a full faced lid and a faired bike would reduce wind noise. Obviously I was wrong, although thinking back to late last year when I wore an open face lid… it was quieter.

Sounds like a great argument for cruisers and open face helmets doesn’t it?

To put all these numbers into perspective, the Noise Equivalent Table below (contained in this document on the Safe Work Australia) website states that you shouldn’t be exposed to noise levels of 85dB(A) or more, for more than 8 hours.

So if  we were to extap… extrapel… e-x-t-r-a-p-l… (damn it).

If we were to project this for 100 km/h using the average 2.1 dB(A) per 10 km/h stated above, a full face helmet would be 98.8dB(A) and an open face would be 97.7dB(A).

So according to the table below you can only ride for between 15 and 30 minutes before suffering some hearing damage.

Table Courtesy Safe Work Australia

Table Courtesy Safe Work Australia

15 to 30 minutes… Not going to happen, right?

So what do you do?

Stick your fingers in your ears!

No wait… that won’t work.

OK seriously, any hearing protection is better than nothing, and each product should have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) listed somewhere on the packet or flier that comes with it.

NRR, or Noise Reduction Rating, is a guideline that indicates the amount of potential protection a hearing protection device will give in a noisy environment. NRR is the decibel (dB) reduction provided by hearing protection based on laboratory test data.

In a nutshell, if you are in a 95dB(A) environment and you have hearing protection with an NRR of 25, the noise level reaching your ear is 70dB(A).

I.E. 95 – 25 = 70. Simple eh?

Acceptable Methods To Reduce Noise… Some Are better Than Others

Acceptable Methods To Reduce Noise… Some Are better Than Others

The NRR attenuation rating will vary depending on what you use . Different products work differently for different frequencies as well, so you need to check the specs and be sure it will work for you.

A rough guide might look something like this:

  • Cotton Wool: Up to NRR 7 – Cheap, at less than a cent each – disposable.
  • Putty type ear plugs: Up to NRR 22 – $4 Pair – Re-usable, waterproof, swimmers use them.
  • Fingers: Up to NRR 25 – Free – Forget it, you’ll never be able to counter steer.
  • Ear Muffs: Up to NRR 26 – $25 to over $250 – reusable, can’t workout how to get these under the lid though.
  • Flanged Ear Plugs: Up tp NRR 27 – $30 pair – washable, re-usable.
  • Custom Molded Ear Plugs: Up to NRR 30 – $70 pair – washable, re-usable available in various colours.
  • Foam Ear Plugs: Up to NRR 33 – $1 pair – single use.

I’ve used foam ear plugs like the yellow ones in the picture above in the past. I could get them for free thanks to one of my past employers. They are for single use only and can’t be cleaned, so can become expensive if you need them every day.

Yep I Know They Need  Clean :-/

Yep I Know They Need Clean :-/

Personally, I use custom molded ear plugs, they’re not cheap at $70 a pair but they work really well, are washable and are tax-deductible as a work related expense… assuming you can substantiate the claim.

I like ’em cause mine are green 😀

So take it from someone who tried to act all “cool”.

Use hearing protection while you’re riding,  your ears will love you for it.

I’m off to find those damn cicadas.


  • Woose: A lightweight, a coward.
  • Decibel (dB): A measurement of sound pressure. Each 3db increase in sound pressure equals a doubling of intensity or volume.

8 responses

  1. Great post on something oft overlooked. I need to better about this myself. Though, I do find I have a conflict much of the time when trying to use my GPS. On the bike, I’d prefer not to take my eyes off the road for any length of time. I’d much rather listen to route instructions. Do you find yourself having this conflict? Others? I haven’t yet purchased a Bluetooth receiver for my helmet, so whenever I need GPS instructions I wear my smartphone in an upper pocket and plug in headphones that I wear under the helmet. Not ideal, especially upon removal (ow). Thoughts?


    July 2, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    • I use a Starcom Advance intercom which is a wired affair. I went this route because unlike Bluetooth it never needs charging and is much easier (read cheaper) to hook a two way up to it. Blue tooth two way adapters can be very expensive in my experience.

      There is a GPS and phone adapter available as well. Plug and play really.

      I don’t use a GPS but I do listen to music, and the ear plugs suppress the wind noise and make the music and intercom much much clearer. Remember the speakers are right up against your ears so you don’t need to have it set too loud.

      Thanks for stopping by.


      July 2, 2014 at 10:31 AM

  2. I agree – good post.
    I finally found ear plugs small enough to fit several years ago – Rock n Roll Hearos:
    These are the only ones that work for me. But I don’t ride without them unless it is just a few miles home from coffee, and even then I usually wear them anyway.
    We use Sena helmet communicators and I can still hear hubby just fine. I have also found wearing a buff around the neck and tucked into the helmet makes a big difference in wind noise.


    July 3, 2014 at 1:06 AM

    • I’ve been wearing a neck sock lately (its a brisk 4°C here) and I agree it does help with the wind noise.


      July 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM

  3. Jaymie

    Yes, really nice post. When riding on my bike, I always suffered from excessive wind noise. After having reached the destination I was sometimes even troubled with a whistle in my ears. As of recently, I use motosafe earplugs:
    I am really happy with these. In the beginning they felt strange somehow, but now I would never ride without them again. So, while wind noise is reduced effectively, I can still hear the traffic and my intercom.


    July 4, 2014 at 11:42 PM

  4. LB

    I am so surprised about the difference between open / FF helmets! You sure do make me think about things!


    July 9, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    • *sigh* LB. My work here is done 😉

      Seriously though, it’s better people are informed about these things. What happens after that is up to them. If I knew then what I know now I might have looked after my ears a bit better… I still can’t find those cicadas.


      July 9, 2014 at 10:27 AM

  5. Pingback: Wired For Sound. | EXPERIMENTAL GHOST

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