Summer Driving: Convertibles and Hearing Loss

We hate to be a downer on this very (extremely!) hot summer day, but it turns out that if you drive a convertible with the top down, you risk more than bug splatters on your sunglasses. A study published in The Journal of Laryngology and Otology showed that driving a convertible at speeds of 55 mph or greater puts you at risk of noise-induced hearing loss.

The research involved five different makes and models of convertibles, driven at various speeds with the top up and later with the top down. Sound measurements were taken to determine the amount of noise drivers and passengers are exposed to.

With the top down and going 55 mph, cars had sound levels greater than 85 decibels (dB). At 75 mph, the noise reached an average of about 90 dB. And those numbers don’t include higher extreme noise “spikes” that could happen while driving next to a motorcycle or truck, or additional noise that could be added with the radio on.

That’s loud.

Those are about the same noise levels as those experienced by crane operators and welders…but those folks are required to wear ear protection. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it would only take about 2 hours of continuous driving at 75 mph with the top down for hearing loss to occur. Even without outright hearing loss, it could also lead to permanent ringing in the ears, or tinnitus.

According to an interview in ScienceDaily:

Dr. A. A. Mikulec from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, who oversaw the study, said: “When the convertible automobiles were driven with the top open, high levels of noise were consistently recorded. Although driving for short distances under such levels of noise exposure is unlikely to cause a significant degree of noise-induced hearing loss, our study demonstrates that long duration driving at high speeds with the convertible top open will increase the driver’s risk of hearing damage.”

To read the full ScienceDaily article, click here:  Is your convertible damaging your hearing?

For more information about noise levels and hearing loss, click here:

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