MOTORCYCLISTS run a high risk of damaging their hearing, according to researchers from Plymouth General Hospital. They examined 106 motorcyclists - including police officers, ordinary amateur riders and professional grand-prix racers - who had been riding for 10 years and had no previous history of ear disease. Comparison with a control group indicated that 46 per cent had suffered hearing loss consistent with noise damage.

The culprit is not the noise of the bike itself, but low frequency noise caused by turbulent airflow around the helmet, the authors point out. Earplugs are not always effective since crash helmets can impair their performance. Some form of hearing protection should be included in helmet design, they argue in The Lancet.