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Wind Related Noise Exposure

Evaluation of Noise Exposure Secondary to Wind Noise in Cyclists

M. Seidman, MD - Department of Otolaryngology, Florida Hospital, Celebration, Florida

Anna G. Wertz, MD - Department of Otolaryngology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan

Matthew M. Smith, MD - Department of Pediatric Otolaryngology, CC Hospital , Cincinnati, Ohio

Steven Jacob - Automotive Operations (wind tunnel), Ford Motor Company, Allen Park, Michigan

Objective: Determine if the noise levels of wind exposure experienced by cyclists reach levels that could contribute to noise-induced hearing loss.

Subjects / Methods: A commercial-grade wind tunnel was used to simulate different speeds encountered by a cyclist. A single cyclist was used during the simulation for audiometric measurements. Microphones attached near the ears of the cyclist were used to measure the sound (dB sound pressure level) experienced by the cyclist. Loudness levels were measured with the head positioned at 15-degree increments from 0 degrees to 180 degrees relative to the oncoming wind at different speeds (10-60 mph).

Results: Wind noise ranged from 84.9 dB at 15 mph and increased proportionally with speed to a maximum of 120.3 dB at 60 mph. The maximum of 120.3 dB was measured at the downwind ear when the ear was 90 degrees away from the wind.

Conclusions: Wind noise experienced by a cyclist is proportional to the speed and the directionality of the wind current. Turbulent airflow patterns are observed that contribute to increased sound exposure in the downwind ear. Consideration of ear deflection equipment without compromising sound awareness for cyclists during prolonged rides is advised to avoid potential noise trauma. Future research is warranted and can include long-term studies, including dosimetry measures of the sound and yearly pre-and post-exposure audiograms of cyclists to detect if any hearing loss occurs with long-term cycling.


Wind-Related Noise Can Contribute to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

September 21, 2016


DETROIT – A new study led by otolaryngologists Michael Seidman, M.D., director of Otologic/Neurotologic/Skull Base Surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health and Anna Wertz, M.D. from the Henry Ford Hospital Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery found that the wind-related noise experienced by cyclists can reach levels loud enough to contribute to noise-induced hearing loss.

Using the Ford Motor Company aero-acoustic wind tunnel, researchers generated wind speeds ranging from 15-60 mph and used microphones attached to a cyclist’s ears to measure the noise level at various speeds. Sound measurements were taken with the head positioned at 15 degree increments relative to the wind from 0 degrees to 180 degrees.

Wind noise ranged from 85 decibels at 15 mph and increased proportionally with speed to a maximum of 120 decibels at 60 mph.

“These findings are important because noise-induced hearing loss can begin with sounds at or above 85 decibels,” said Anna Wertz, M.D., Henry Ford otolaryngologist and co-author of the study. “Short-term exposure to loud sounds isn’t likely to have a lasting effect on hearing, but prolonged or repeated exposure can lead to permanent damage."

The study also found that the noise level was greater in the downwind ear, which was facing away from the wind. The researchers say this finding may be due to air turbulence caused from eddy currents observed on the downwind side.

For more information on the ear, nose and throat (ENT) services offered by Henry Ford Health System or to set up an appointment with an ENT doctor, please visit the ENT Department.

Jeff Adkins
(586) 307-2027


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