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Bike Touring and Ear Protection

Old 12-16-19, 05:40 PM
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BikeWonder
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Bike Touring and Ear Protection

I feel that ear protection during a bike tour is often an overlooked modifiable risk factor.


Ever since I've completed my trip to Vancouver over the Rockies, I've been noticing ringing in my left ear, the side that was exposed to highway vehicles passing a relatively high speeds. Sometimes I would be biking for more than 12 hours listening to the same loud sounds. Even during my sleep, I'd be hearing the "woooosssh, woooooosh" from vehicles. But now I hear a ringing sound that occurs for approx 30 seconds and then goes away. I notice it more when I come back from riding in the cold or going to bed.


Anywho, I digress. What does ear protection look like for you on a bike tour? I think my issue is a symptom of a much bigger problem, tinnitus, and to prevent it from getting worse, I'd like to start using more ear protection on my rides without compromising my safety. Has this ever been an issues for some of you?
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Old 12-16-19, 05:53 PM
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Annoyance more than anything, and what makes quiet roads so appealing.
actual db levels to cause hearing loss, I doubt it
it's all relative, I've been in loud factories and motorsport situations where I had similar symptoms, but never from riding db levels.
A single foam ear plug will help you if you need it. I always have ear protection with me, for travel and campground sounds, but never considered needing them for riding.
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Old 12-16-19, 05:55 PM
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I have had tinnitus since I was kid, now also have hearing aids, occassionaly get crickets or come and go tones. If your condition continues you should get it checked out. One thing few think about is the wax in your ear. You might have a build up and not be aware of it. You could use wax remover liquid from the drug store, multiple times, also get one of those little squeeze bulbs to flush with warm water. Take care of your hearing before it gets worse. Good luck.
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Old 12-16-19, 07:15 PM
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I've been thinking about noise and hearing damage since my neighborhood empties onto a 4-lane 55mph (*cough* 70mph *cough*) divided highway. It's pretty darn loud. Android has a decibel meter app, maybe iPhone does too. It would be interesting to stand there and measure.
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Old 12-16-19, 08:25 PM
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I'm sure most of us have had the misfortune of riding in a similar situation as the op describes, and it certainly is tiring, all the noise.
Avoiding these sort of roads are way up there on the priority list, but I have put up with them a few times when circumstances or it being the best option was the only way to go.
I can't imagine doing it for that long though, after a few hours I find it exhausting.
The worst times have been in countries that don't have sound level laws, some trucks and their engine braking loud sounds could make your ears bleed....just horrible. I'd routinely stick a finger in my ear for the worst.
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Old 12-16-19, 10:30 PM
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My ears are a large part my input when I'm cycling. They tell me a lot of what's going on behind me without looking. I can hear when a car moves over and the tires hit paint lines or gravel, for instance. I would still cycle if I had a hearing impairment, but I'll never purposely block my ears.

The only time I'll plug my ears is for an emergency vehicle with a siren, when I'm pulled over and stopped. I think we all have different frequency sensitivities, too. Lower freqs and normal highway noise don't bother me.
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Old 12-17-19, 12:09 PM
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I generally use a set of Cat Ears on my helmet and it greatly reduces wind noise making for more pleasant riding. There are other manufacturers these days such Wind Blox and SlipStreamz and they all work well for reducing wind noise but are not much good for reducing car noise when riding along a busy highway.
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Old 12-17-19, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Geezerdan View Post
I have had tinnitus since I was kid, now also have hearing aids, occassionaly get crickets or come and go tones. If your condition continues you should get it checked out. One thing few think about is the wax in your ear. You might have a build up and not be aware of it. You could use wax remover liquid from the drug store, multiple times, also get one of those little squeeze bulbs to flush with warm water. Take care of your hearing before it gets worse. Good luck.
I came here to post something like this. I've also had tinnitus since I was a kid, and bring earplugs with me most places in case things get loud. You only get one set of ears, take care of them for the sake of future enjoyment and your sanity!
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Old 12-17-19, 10:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Geezerdan View Post
I have had tinnitus since I was kid, now also have hearing aids, occassionaly get crickets or come and go tones. If your condition continues you should get it checked out. One thing few think about is the wax in your ear. You might have a build up and not be aware of it. You could use wax remover liquid from the drug store, multiple times, also get one of those little squeeze bulbs to flush with warm water. Take care of your hearing before it gets worse. Good luck.
Do you ride with your hearing aids in your ears (if they're that type) and turned on?

I have hearing aids too but can't use them when riding due to the loud wind noise drowning everything out. My hearing aids fit inside the ear lobe.

Cheers
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Old 12-18-19, 07:17 AM
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Many years ago I rode across N. America during a particularly hot summer. In order to avoid the heat I went throug Ontario, and had to ride on the Trans Canada Highway where I had to endure hours of "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh", I finally took some dirt roads that took me way out of the way, just to avoid any more traffic. The problem with ear protection is that we need to hear ahat's coming up behind us.

My only suggestion is to avoid heavily travelled roads.
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Old 12-18-19, 09:18 AM
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Originally Posted by ironwood View Post
Many years ago I rode across N. America during a particularly hot summer. In order to avoid the heat I went throug Ontario, and had to ride on the Trans Canada Highway where I had to endure hours of "whoosh, whoosh, whoosh", I finally took some dirt roads that took me way out of the way, just to avoid any more traffic. The problem with ear protection is that we need to hear ahat's coming up behind us.

My only suggestion is to avoid heavily travelled roads.
I could maybe see using one left ear foam one to cut some woosh BUT always using a mirror.
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Old 12-18-19, 10:55 AM
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On busy roads, I often will use a foam earplug on the vehicle side (left if on the shoulder, right if on a bike lane next to the road that is traveling the opposite direction as traffic). I can still hear fine with the foam earplug and the unplugged ear.
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Old 12-18-19, 01:02 PM
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My worst tinnitus hits after a ride with strong winds. I don't remember road noise causing any problems. If you're riding past a cotton field shortly after harvest, grab a few loose bolls and pick the seeds out; otherwise a commercial cotton ball in each ear works well.

And at least in my case, avoid a lot of caffeine in coffee. Decaf, please.
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Old 12-18-19, 05:40 PM
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Something I re-remembered recently, is wearing a nice wool hat under your helmet. It won't really help with trucks & loud noises, but it helps a lot with wind noise. And of course, wool keeps your ears nice & warm, when it's cold out. 👍😁
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Old 12-18-19, 05:51 PM
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I use a ski helmet with ear pads in the Winter. In the Summer I usually avoid main roads for safety reasons, but if I were to spend a good amount of time on highways I would use foam earplugs. They block out a lot of the white noise but allow you to hear other noise or vehicles.
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Old 12-18-19, 07:27 PM
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Ringing in your ears is the start of long term tinnitus, and it wont go away, their is no cure for it. It will only get worse as you get older, and you will have niggling pain with it to. I got mine from using weapons in the army, mainly in my early years. Using ear plugs early may make it less severe, but once the ringing is prolonged and permanent, it will always be there and ear plugs wont stop it. See an ear specialist as soon as possible.
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Old 12-19-19, 01:31 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I could maybe see using one left ear foam one to cut some woosh BUT always using a mirror.
Not sure if this is a good idea. Plugging just one ear may affect your sense of balance.
I'm a sound engineer working on loud stages. If I'm not actively mixing, I wear Bellman & Symfon earplugs. They are moulded and can be fitted with different noise reduction filters. I use -9 dB filters, the least reduction, so I can still have conversations and hear what's going on. I haven't tried cycling with them, but as they dampen sound frequencies equally over the whole spectrum, I'm sure they would be better than yellow foam plugs for example. Expensive, yes, but hey...
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Old 12-19-19, 01:44 AM
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Quickly imi, i agree i don't like the idea to block hearing ever, i never do riding. I was thinking suggesting a compromise for someone.
I'm familiar with the individually moulded types, i have a pair made by a montreal company from years ago, wore them sometimes in very loud photo shoot environments like factories or the few motorsports stuff.
Cheers
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