Cyclists Are Potentially at Risk for Hearing Loss
Cycling is a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. But could you unknowingly be putting your hearing at risk? Here’s what you should know.
If you’re a cycling enthusiast – or even just a fan of a stationary bike at home or the gym – you know the health benefits of hopping on the seat and pedaling. Your heart, muscles, and mood can all benefit from regular exercise
But might you be putting your ears at risk of hearing loss or tinnitus while enjoying a ride outdoors?
A recent article from Cycling Tips seems to suggest that it's a possibility.
The connection between cycling and possible hearing loss
On one of his numerous cycling breaks, American ear surgeon Dr Michael Seidman realized he was shouting constantly at his biking partner, even on a quiet outdoor day. He decided to investigate whether wind noise could be causing this potential hearing loss.
“I realized we were screaming at each other and I never realized how noisy it was,” Dr Seidman told CyclingTips. “And I’m thinking ‘It’s pristine, silent out here, and it’s so noisy!’ You hear the [makes whooshing sound] of the wind noise.
To learn if he was experiencing dangerous noise levels, Dr. Seidman conducted a test in the Ford Motor Company wind tunnel in Allen Park, Michigan. For the test, Dr. Seidman wore his typical cycling gear and recorded the noise levels near his ears at different wind speeds and directions.
Dr Seidman’s team discovered that a speed of only 10 mph would produce 85dB of noise near his ears. Increasing the speed saw that level increase.
To put that noise level in perspective, OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, states that a person can be exposed to a maximum of 85dB while at work. Anything over 85dB can lead to noise-induced hearing loss.
Dr. Seidman sees this as a real risk for cyclists— especially for those who ride daily.
“If you think about riding downhill at say 30 miles an hour [48km/h] into a 10-mile-an-hour headwind, that’s 40 miles per hour [64km/h]. That’s 108dB of sound. That’s very routine for people to get,” Dr. Seidman said.
How to protect your hearing as a cyclist
Obviously any ear protection must balance the need to protect your hearing from potentially damaging noises with the need to remain aware of your surroundings while out on the road. For that reason, many cycling enthusiasts opt for headbands that are thick enough to reduce wind noise, but not so bulky as to interfere with a helmet or one’s ability to hear traffic. There are also products made especially for the purpose of reducing excess wind noise.