The influential Dutch motorcycle magazine Promotor recently published a large-scale motorcycle helmet test. System helmets from different brands underwent an extensive drop test and were also subjected to a noise measurement. Because, how noise-insulating is a motorcycle helmet anyway? Is riding without earplugs also an option with a good system helmet?
For the noise measurement, ten system helmets from different brands and within various price categories were tested. The helmets were tested at speeds of 50 km per hour, 100 km per hour and 150 km per hour. The helmet which was rated best in the test admits 85 decibels (dB) of noise at a speed of 50 km per hour. This is the same as the noise level in a busy playground. At 100 km per hour, the same helmet admits 100 dB. This is even more noise than a hammer drill produces (95 dB). The system helmet with the worst performance in terms of noise attenuation admits 92 dB at a speed of 50 km per hour (comparable with a train speeding past), and at 100 km per hour 106 dB (louder than the noise of a chain saw or in a disco).
In the table below you see per speed how long you can ride without risk of hearing damage. Your hearing can already become damaged from 80 dB. You can safely stay at a noise level of 80 dB for eight hours a day. Every three decibels more half this time. You risk hearing damage at a level of 83 dB after four hours. And at 86 dB, you risk permanent hearing damage after only two hours.
To make the exact results of the noise measurements carried out by Promotor even clearer for you, we have calculated the average attenuation values of the ten different system helmets for you. At a speed of 50 km per hour, the ten helmets tested admit 88 dB on average. This means that you can ride safely for around 1.5 hours. After this time you have a major risk of hearing damage. If you accelerate your bike to 100 km per hour, the helmets admit 103 dB on average. Hearing damage is just round the corner after only 5 minutes. And if you belt along the motorway at 150 km per hour, there’s no stopping it: at this speed, the system helmets admit 110 dB of noise on average. You can do the math…
Therefore a system helmet, no matter which from price category or brand, offers insufficient protection on your bike. Even at low speeds your hearing can be subjected to damage in a short time, which is unfortunately permanent and untreatable. Luckily you don’t need to rely on your helmet to prevent hearing damage. More and more motorcyclists are wearing hearing protection. Motorcycle earplugs are available in different versions, and as well as preventing hearing damage, offer a number of major advantages. So for the touring rider, there are the Alpine MotoSafe Tour earplugs with average attenuation. For speed demons there is the Alpine MotoSafe Race earplugs with heavier attenuation. Do you want more attenuation on some occasions than others? Then choose the Alpine MotoSafe Pro. This means you have two different sets of earplugs, with medium attenuation and heavy attenuation.
In addition to the fact that motorcycle earplugs protect you from hearing damage, riding with hearing protection offers a number of other advantages. First of all, you can concentrate much better on the traffic around you because you are not distracted by the loud noise of the wind. Concentrating on the road also costs you more energy when you are distracted by wind noise. With hearing protection your riding is not only safer but also a lot more relaxed. Read more about the different types of earplugs in our blog report ‘Hearing protection: a must for every motorcyclist’