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Hearing loss and motorcyclists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 June 2007

Andrew W. McCombe*
Department of Otolaryngology, Royal United Hospital, Bath BA2 3NG.
Jonathan Binnington
Cottage Street Hearing Centre, Brierly Hill, West Midlands DY5 1RE.
Adrian Davis
MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD.
Helen Spencer
MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD.
Mr A. W. McCombe, Department of Otolaryngology, Frimley Park Hospital, Portsmouth Road, Frimley, Surrey GU16 5UJ.
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Motorcyclists are known to be exposed to excessive wind noise levels when riding. The potential adverse effects of this exposure on their hearing was investigated. Temporary threshold shift (TTS) was assessed by asking 18 riders to undertake a standard test run of one hour at a steady 80 mph, and performing audiometry before and immediately afterwards. Permanent threshold shift (PTS) was assessed by performing pure-tone audiograms on a highly screened group of 246 motorcyclists and comparing their hearing thresholds with those of an appropriate control group obtained from the MRC National Study of Hearing.

Significant TTS was found at 0.25, 0.5,1 and 2 kHz. The greatest TTS occurred at 1 kHz, with a mean hearing loss of 10.3 dB. The hearing thresholds of the motorcyclists were significantly worse than the controls at 0.25, 0.5, 1 and 2 kHz, andwas most marked at 0.5 and 1 kHz where their hearing loss (PTS) was, respectively, 3.7 and 3.6 dB greater than expected.

These findings demonstrate evidence of both temporary and permanent hearing loss from motorcycling and present a strong argument for the need for some form of remedial action.

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