One aspect of motorcycling that’s not often discussed is the noise. The level varies depending on the type of helmet you wear. On average, the noise level in a motorcycle helmet can be between 95dB and 105dB when travelling at 100 km per hour. That’s some serious noise, and it can get to you on a long trip. So, how big a deal is wind noise to motorcyclists.
Is Wind Noise Normal in a Helmet? The Issue of Wind Noise
Recently, a group of scientists from the University of Florida tested the noise level on 38 different motorcycles. They found that nearly half of these motorcycles produced noise levels over 100dB. As a point of reference, the US Occupational and Health Administrator warns any exposure to noise at this level should be limited to 15 minutes.
Excessive exposure to noise at this level can have some serious consequences. The most concerning of which is permanent hearing loss. Ongoing noise of this nature can also lead to tinnitus and tiredness.
Interestingly, recent research from the University of Bath on motorcycle aerodynamics and helmet noise found that while the wind noise can have a long-term negative effect on your hearing, it does not necessarily limit your ability to hear sounds such as traffic noise at different frequencies on the bike. At these frequencies, the wind has a paradoxical effect on your hearing making it more acute and sensitive.
The study warned against the use of in-ear devices that aim to muffle the noise from the wind with music, for example. The researchers found that the volume level these need to be set at is high, and this can in fact be just as damaging to your hearing while making you less aware of what is going on around you on the road.
The Ways to Reduce Noise
The following are ways to reduce the noise levels when riding a motorcycle:
The Right Helmet
Sounds straightforward, but a proper fitting, the snug helmet is quieter because there are fewer ways for the air to enter the helmet. A bonus is a helmet is safer when it’s properly fitted. In addition, some helmets are noisier than others. Although this is a useful way to cut down the noise level, the reality is a little different. Studies have found that the noise in fact only falls by 3 to 5 dB. Ensuring there is sufficient padding around the neck and in the cheek region further helps reduce the airflow and improves the level of noise.
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In addition, the style of helmet that you choose plays a significant role, with the full-face helmet by and far the best at effectively disrupting the wind flow. The impact of a well-fitting visor is essential as the key is to minimize the points on the helmet at which the wind is accessing the helmet.
Unfortunately, vents, while being effective in keeping you cool while riding, are not effective in keeping the noise down. The principle of vents is that they use airflow to keep you cool. Many helmets have the technology to alleviate the issue, so it’s important to find out what effect the ventilation system in your helmet will have on airflow when you purchase it.
Earplugs – Etymotic Research ER20XS
These ER20XS earplugs provide hearing protection to prevent tinnitus and hearing damage from dangerous noise levels, making them perfect for use on motorcycles, sporting events, air travel, etc… The high-fidelity sound quality allows for clear and natural speech and environmental sounds with 20-dB equal sound reduction across the spectrum of hearing.
These high-fidelity earplugs feature a low-profile design that fits comfortably in the ear without protruding, making them ideal for long-term wear under hats, helmets, and other headgear. Additionally, the interchangeable and replaceable silicone eartips provide a cost-effective solution for maintaining optimal sound quality.
Included in the set are ER20XS high-fidelity earplugs that offer a standard fit, along with an easy-to-install neck cord and a compact carrying case that conveniently fits in your pocket or purse. This ensures that you always have hearing protection readily available when you need it.
This is a unique solution to the wind noise issue. It’s a Neoprene skirt that attaches to your helmet on the outside and sits down over your shoulders, reducing the airflow and as a result, the noise created when the wind hits the bottom of your helmet. Motorcyclists that have tried the Windjammer have been happy with the results.
Balaclava or Scarf
A balaclava or scarf performs a function as the neoprene skirt by acting to block the wind from getting in under the helmet and making a noise.
Daal ANC DXL-5 Noise-Cancelling Unit
This product is the latest technology. It combines unique noise-canceling technology with in-helmet Bluetooth technology using active noise to cancel the wind noise while still allowing you to hear road noise and traffic. The product has just been released in Europe and is available by mail order only in the US at this stage.
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Although this is not going to get rid of the noise altogether, adjust your windscreen. This can be more effective than purchasing one of the windscreen spoilers that have been produced with a similar purpose in mind. Often adjusting the windscreen is a process of trial and error to find the position that is quietest for you.
The position that you are in when riding your bike can have a major impact on the tiding noise you experience. On a spot’s bike, your positioning means that the opening is facing away from the direction of the airflow which makes it a lot quieter.
Where the riding position is more upright, such as on the street or on naked-style bikes, the airflow becomes more of an issue for riders.
Wind noise is, to a degree, just one of those things that you can’t help when riding a motorcycle. However, as the products and tips above indicate, there are steps that you can take to mitigate the issue and limit any potential damage to your hearing.
Information for this article was partially sourced and researched from the following authoritative Government, educational and nonprofit organizations: