Convertibles Hazardous to Your Hearing?
Wind in Your Hair, Noise in Your Ears: Too Much Top-Down Driving May Harm Hearing, Researchers Say
Noise Reduction Remedies
Putting up the windows -- never mind how geeky some feel that looks -- can
cut noise exposure, Michael says. "If you have the top down and put the windows
up, it drops the average to 84 decibels'' for five of the seven cars, he
Putting up the wind guard on the car may reduce noise, too, Michael says.
Earplugs would help, too, he says.
Another idea is to carefully choose your top-down driving location. ''Mainly
the problem is with highway driving," he says, as that is a higher-speed
environment but also often has heavier traffic than city streets or rural
roads, which adds to the noise of the wind and the car noise.
Two audiologists who reviewed the study results for WebMD call the research
interesting and say it couldn't hurt for convertible drivers to exercise some
caution for their hearing health.
So do the study results suggest there is reason for concern? Yes, says
Alison Grimes, the head of the audiology clinic at the University of California
Los Angeles Medical Center and assistant clinical professor of head and neck
surgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "I would qualify that
by saying if you drive eight hours a day, seven days a week you have a much
greater concern than if you drive two hours on a Sunday afternoon."
Rolling up the windows, as Michael suggested, is an option, Grimes says.
"Anything you can do to put up a barrier between you and the sound."
The research, she says, "is sort of a reminder that noise comes from sources
we don't even think about."
Driving your convertible with the top down, she says, "is a little bit like
eating unhealthy food. You can do it occasionally, but don't go overboard.
There are unintended consequences you don't want to deal with.''
"I think people should be cautious," says Debbie Abel, an audiologist in
Poway, Calif., and director of reimbursement for the American Academy of
Audiology. She says she has noticed more drivers putting the convertible top
down and the windows up.
If drivers are considering earplugs, Abel suggests they first check with
their state's motor vehicle department to find out whether they are permitted