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Our amazing range of hearing

far too often taken for granted.

It is understandable for most of us that the science of sound is not interesting.  For most of us, good hearing is a given when we are young, but as we age, we often discover what we did earlier in life has affected our health.  The trick is to grab your attention early enough in the game to influence the outcome later in life.  At least, that is my intent, so bear with me.

In much the same way as our eyes are tuned to a narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum we call light, the sound we hear is only part of a band framed by inaudible ultra-high and low frequencies of the sound spectrum.  This miracle of hearing is perfectly tuned to the range relevant to our existence.  And like our sense of smell, touch, taste, and sight, our hearing appears to be maintenance-free.  And that is the rub: appearances can be misleading.  But before we discuss this, let’s set the groundwork for the science of sound by defining what sound is and how sound is measured.

what is it?

Sound is energy waves carried in a media such as gases, liquids, and solids.  When these waves are a particular frequency, they fall into the audible range that our ears can convert and which we hear as sound.  How loud the sound is relates to the amplitude of the wave.  

a system to measure sound. 

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is a unit used to measure the loudness or intensity of a sound.  The scale used is logarithmic, also known as exponential,  because the human hearing range is extensive.  One can hear everything from a mosquito to the loudest clap of thunder.  If we used a conventional linear graph, the mosquito would be a little spec at the bottom of the graph, and the thunder would be off the page.  That’s why scientists use a logarithmic scale when graphing wide ranges of values.  Though calculating sound energy can be complicated, it is safe to say our ears are not a good judge of how loud it is.  If you want to get into the nuts and bolts, here is a good overview of sound intensity and levels

it boils down to this. 

In the first paragraph, I mentioned how our senses appear maintenance-free.  In the discussion of decibels and the measurement of sound just above, I stated our ears are not a good judge of sound intensity.  This means what appears to be just a little more or less sound, over the years, can make a huge difference in our hearing. 

I urge you to reduce helmet wind noise and buffeting and ride in a quiet air pocket.  Doing so will take two courses of action.  The first is to attack the source, and the second is to protect the ears.  To attack the source, read about the importance and types of wind deflectors for motorcycles and this page to see our tools to help you improve your air pocket.  The idea is to generate a quiet, smooth, comfortable air pocket and make riding enjoyable.

Additionally, for hearing protection, consider this company.  Saeng has no financial connection with them; we thought this might be an excellent place to start. 

Ride safe,
Chuck Saunders


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