A study, conducted by a British group from the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in the UK, clearly demonstrates that, indeed, while convertibles are fun, they can also lead to hearing loss.
Dr. Philip Michael, lead author of the study, put it this way: “If you are exposed for long periods of 85 decibels (dB) [of sound], you have the potential for hearing loss. The maximum noise occurred at 70 miles per hour and reached the sound threshold of 89dBs. It has the potential for causing long-term hearing loss.”
The problem, according to Dr. Michael’s study, isn’t just the loudness; it’s also the length of time our ears are exposed to high levels of noise. It’s the combination of loudness and length of time exposed to loud noise that have the potential to cause permanent damage to hearing.
Bottom line: any exposure to noises in excess of 85dBs over a long time frame can (and do) cause damage to all those tiny pieces that work in conjunction to enable you to hear.
“We measured the noise by the driver’s ear,” Dr. Michael explained at a conference held by the American Academy of Otolaryngology in San Diego. Noise by the driver’s roadside ear was measured for one minute using a sound level meter.
When drivers reached speeds of 70 mph, the noise level reached 89dBs – loud enough to cause hearing loss. The general finding was the higher the speed, the louder the sound.
“Putting up the windows – never mind how geeky some feel that looks – can cut noise exposure,” explained Dr. Michael. “If you have the top down and put up the windows, it [sound level] drops to an average of 84dBs in four of the seven test cars.”
“Mainly the problem is highway driving,” the study’s lead author stated. “It’s a high speed environment. Back country roads, where the car’s velocity is much lower, doesn’t present as much of a danger.” Makes sense.
The report’s findings were reviewed by two American hearing experts, and for convertible owners, there’s hope.
Conclusion? Enjoy your cruising with the top down. But enjoy it in moderation. Limit your exposure to road and wind noise. And slow down. The slower you drive, the less noise you create.
Roll up the windows to cut down on the noise. Check with your state’s DMV about the rules and regs for wearing ear plugs (some states do not allow this) and, if you do opt for a pair, go with the hear-through variety.
Once again, protecting your hearing is a matter of moderation mixed in with a little common sense. So as Spring Fever hits, enjoy the ride. Put down the top, roll up the windows and rock on down the road.
Convertibles have always been fun. Now they can be safe, too, if you take precautions to protect your hearing.
To learn more about the study’s findings, as well as which convertibles were tested for noise and hearing loss risks, read more here: Convertibles: Top Down Cause of Hearing Loss