Beware Cyclists: Wind Noise Can Cause Serious Damage To Your Ears

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Ever think about how all the wind rushing past your ears could be slowly damaging your hearing? For Michael Seidman, MD, otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon at AdventHealth, the answer is yes. It occurred to him recently when he was out biking with his brother. 

We were riding 18 to 20 mph and we couldn't hear each other speak, Dr. Seidman says. I knew this had to be bad for hearing; Ive determined that wind noise at speeds higher than 10 mph creates enough sound to damage the ear.

People don't think about it, he adds. We know about motorcyclists and wind noise when the rider doesn't wear a helmet, but when it comes to cycling it just doesn't seem as harmful. We should be aware of it, though. Its not as innocuous as you think.

Dr. Seidman was so interested in the topic that he went on a bike ride in the wind tunnel at Ford Motor Company to examine it more closely.

I was riding at 50 to 60 mph, which is achievable on a bike when you go downhill, he says. Basically, if you are riding 1 to 2 hours at 10 mph with wind you could be damaging your hearing.

Its similar to being at noisy concert. Your ears recover each time, but over time the more concerts you go to, more and more permanent damage is being done.

Dr. Seidman, who was the lead author of the study, Evaluation of Noise Exposure Secondary to Wind Noise in Cyclists, reported the findings with his colleagues on September 18 at the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery annual meeting in San Diego, California. 

He warns, earplugs aren't the answer since you wont be able to hear vehicles as they approach.

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