Motorcycle helmets are designed and tested for impact protection and comfort, but not for sound protection. The noise level inside a helmet can reach rock-concert levels when traveling at high speeds. Because of this, many riders use earplugs to prevent hearing damage and to reduce the potential distraction that can cause accidents. Since many jurisdictions in the US prohibit the use of earplugs, you have to choose between paying a fine or sustaining permanent hearing loss. There are ways that you can reduce the noise when riding.
Sizing and Fitting
Correct helmet sizing and fitting is crucial. It must fit your head shape and profile, especially around your neck. Avoid using open-faced helmets, as these can be quite noisy. These include half-helmets, three-quarter face helmets and skull caps. Full-face helmets are the better alternative because they cover your entire face, reducing the noise quite a bit.
Chin or Neck Curtain
A chin or neck curtain reduces the airflow from the bottom of your helmet. It attaches to the bottom between the shell and the liner. Some models are designed with longer necks that can be tucked beneath the collar of your jacket, providing adequate protection when riding in inclement weather or on cold days. Many are windproof, and some are waterproof. Depending on the design, it can be difficult to fit on some helmets. Plus, it may not block all noise.
Vented helmets provide an excellent combination of protection and air-flow that will keep you cool on hot days. You won’t find a lot of vents on open-faced helmets, but you will find them on the full-face models. Depending on the brand, you may find models that feature many vents and outlets and others that may have one or two, typically at the top of the helmet or on the forehead. Each design moves air differently, which can increase or decrease the noise level.
The external design may also be a factor in high noise levels. This depends on how many ways air has to move around the helmet. Protrusions such as ridges and fins can produce turbulence, which can cause noise. This happens when they are not designed properly.
Some full-face helmets feature visors that utilize a ratcheting system to allow the visor to open in varying degrees. When there is a flaw in the design, your visor will not seal properly on your helmet. The slightest opening will create a large vent that spans the entire width of the facial opening, creating turbulence that will generate a lot of noise. When looking at different brands, check out the ones who employ wind tunnel testing. Those tend to aerodynamically sound and quieter.
If the above doesn’t reduce the noise level to where you’re comfortable, you can always try using standard earplugs. These can help reduce the noise level significantly, but they may not be comfortable to wear for long periods of time. For improved noise reduction and comfort, you may want to get custom fit earplugs.
While there is not such thing as a quiet motorcycle helmet, you can find some that are quieter than others. Careful research and testing will help you determine which one is right for you. Sizing and venting are the most important factors in your decision, as they can provide adequate protection for collisions and weather conditions. Once you determine which brand suits your needs, you can use the above tips to help manage any excess noise that you may encounter.