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How loud is your motorcycle helmet?

BMW System 7 Carbon helmet loud
BMW System 7 Carbon helmet

Just how loud is your motorcycle helmet and what damage is it doing to your ears?

Medical authorities tell us that 15 minutes exposed to sound levels over 95dB can do irreparable damage to your hearing. Check out this noise pollution calculator.

The long-term result can be tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

If you want to keep riding, the only solution is to wear earplugs like all motorcycle racers.

Not wearing earplugs is my only regret in a long career of riding motorcycles. The ringing is so loud it sometimes prevents me going to sleep at night.

Overly dramatic?

Many young and mature riders claim I am being overly dramatic, alarmist or sensationalist, especially when I suggest wearing earplugs on every ride.

They claim a motorcycle helmet — especially a full-face helmet — eliminates the damaging noise.

However, Dutch magazine Promotor has tested the noise levels in 10 different “system” (modular or flip-up) helmets at varying speeds and found some startling results.

Now, flip-up helmets are not the quietest. They usually allow wind noise intrusion around the hinges next to your ears.

AGV Sportmodular carbon modular motorcycle helmet loud
AGV Sportmodular modular helmet

But they are in no way as loud as open-face helmets that many riders wear.

The quietest helmets are full-face helmets and we have found the best noise dampening is in the heaviest helmets with thick padding.

Unfortunately, helmets don’t come with independently tested noise levels.

That’s why the Promotor article is so interesting.

I’ve tried testing helmets with an iPhone tucked up inside the helmet with a noise measuring app running, but couldn’t get consistent and dependable results.

Loud helmets

Loud helmets (Image from Promotor)
(Image from Promotor)

We’re not sure how Promotor tested the helmets, but the best performer registered 85 decibels (dB) inside at just 50km/h which is “the same as the noise level in a busy playground”.

Ok, that’s not so bad, is it?

However, at 86dB you risk permanent hearing damage after two hours.

At 100km/h, that same helmet registered 100dB which is more noise than a hammer drill at 95dB.

And that’s the best results.

At the other end of the spectrum the worst performing helmet registered 92dB at 50km/h which is comparable to a train speeding past.

At 100km/h it registered 106dB, which is louder than the noise of a chain saw or a disco.

So no matter what helmet you wear, you should always wear some sort of earplugs.

Alpine MotoSafe earplugs make riders safer sound
BUY Alpine MotoSafe earplugs now in our online shop

We recommend Alpine MotoSafe earplugs which filter out damaging noise, but still allow you to hear emergency sounds such as sirens and screeching tyres.

They also allow you to hear your Bluetooth music or your exhaust which is “music” to many riders’ ears.

  1. Good advice people. Not only saves your hearing but also makes for a better ride and far less tiring on long rides. ‘Been wearing Earmold custom moulded earplugs for years. My current set are 15 years old and still doing fine. Plus I also use the Alpine plugs in the article at times – ‘recommend the red/race ones.

    Earplugs can be irritating though at lower speeds/revs on bikes that shake a bit [previous model Harleys], until engine revs build and vibrations smooth-out.

  2. I wear a full face helmet which is designed to be quiet along with earplugs. Wind buffeting is the thing that does the most damage. We all have insurance just in case, we wear helmets just in case, get some earplugs as insurance and protection for your ears.

      1. hi buddy, sorry, i meant the dutch article you refer to that compared many helmets. “However, Dutch magazine Promotor has tested the noise levels in 10 different “system” (modular or flip-up) helmets at varying speeds and found some startling results.”

        I as not able to find it on the website. I would like to have a read of it.


  3. After 21 years in the Army (a number of which were not OH&S hearing aware), I am now conscious of not only the damage done but also the risk of further damage that could happen. I bought a pair of the Alpine Tour and I think they are excellent. Can still listen to music and take calls but most importantly, I feel that they give me the confidence that I don’t have to worry about (as much) about further hearing damage.

    I would hope that Motorbikewriter keeps promoting this as I do think it is an important message to get out there….


  4. The quietest helmet I have ever owned was an open face helmet could hold a conversation with somebody on a bike alongside you or with a pillion with no issues. Currently have two full face helmets a Shoe NXR and a Bell MX9 both of which I would rate as loud in comparison to the open face lid. The vents are the things on both those helmets that make all the noise and I often tape over then to shut them up if its cold enough but I have to wear a set of earplugs with them both.

    1. I don’t understand why this isn’t common knowledge. When I started riding again 12 years ago I bought a HJC Open face helmet. A year or so later I bought a Shoei Neotec helmet as it was recommended as being as quiet as a Schuberth helmet. I was shocked to discover the open faced helmet was still substantially quieter. I figure that the wall of air created in front of the helmet forces the airflow away from the surface of the helmet. The slower moving air at the surface of the helmet doesn’t create nearly as much sound. As evidence of this I can attest that bees coming over the top of my windshield are slow sufficiently enough to stay alive and sting me in exactly the same location on my forehead every time.

  5. I’ve been using Alpines for several years now – they’re easy to put in, come in several different varieties and screen out a lot of noise. I’m happy with them.

  6. I am like you- regret not using earplugs in 25 + years of riding. I now use Moto Safe pro, they make a real difference and riding is more pleasurable (particularly in the country).

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