Full article with thanks to https://bettersoundproofing.com/best-quietest-motorcycle-helmets/
If you experience ear fatigue and hearing loss after a ride, then you should be checking out the quietest biker helmets available. Riding at 40 mph or faster can generate wind noise greater than 100 dB with a helmet on, and 10 times louder without one.
A good helmet doesn’t just look good and keep the bugs out of your eyes. It protects your ears from wind, road, and engine noise, and your melon in the event of a crash. In this article, we’ll look at what makes a helmet quiet, what to look for in a helmet and how you can protect your hearing.
How Do Helmets Work?
Ears are designed to catch airborne sounds so we can react to what we hear. Biker helmets are usually smoother and more aerodynamic than the human head. So a helmet that covers the ears should protect it from excessive wind noise.
At low speeds or stops, it is the noise from the engine and pipes which can cause hearing damage. However, wind pressure and wind noise at speed are more constant and damaging.
Helmets do create some turbulence around the edges that catch the wind, but it is less than the ears and facial contours create without a helmet. Helmet manufacturers have spent millions in the past 5 or so years to test designs for wind noise and improve their products to better protect against hearing loss.
Wind noise is as damaging as listening to a live band in a pub or using a chainsaw or lawnmower without ear protection.
Why Is It Important to Wear a Motorcycle Helmet?
Riders or passengers without helmets have a higher risk of brain and spinal cord trauma that results in greater health care and rehabilitation costs, plus permanent disabilities.
Helmets can also protect your eyes and ears from wind damage, debris, and prevent dehydration and sunstroke, which could lead to an accident. Helmets are lightweight and crack resistant and designed to shield your head and brain during a collision. The more protection for the head and face, the better it is for your ears and eyes too.
A helmet can also improve your ride comfort in different weather conditions and decreases worry about rain, dust, bugs, and wind so that you can enjoy your ride. Wearing a DOT (Department of Transportation) approved helmet, and protective gear may not prevent an accident, but it can decrease the extent of short term and long term injury, and even death.
Types of Helmets
Modular helmets are full-face helmets with a hinged or removable chin bar. It provides full facial protection, although it isn’t as strong as the one-piece full-face helmet.
The modular allows the rider to lift the lower protection and face shield to the forehead to permit eating, drinking, or conversation without removing the helmet. Most manufacturers recommend against riding with the chin bar up as it creates drag, increased noise, changes the weight dynamics, and decreases the protection.
A full-face helmet covers the whole head from below the chin, and up. An oval eye-port is left open to permit peripheral and forward vision – an important feature! The full face has a molded fixed aerodynamic chin bar that offers greater protection and helps prevent wind lift.
The eye portal on sports helmets is angle upward and the chin bar is higher as riders are angled on the bike. The air ducts are also nearer the top to draw more air in when leaning forward.
On helmets where the rider sits more upright the chin bar is lower to protect more of the neck, and the eye-port is angled straight out. The helmets are designed for cruisers, touring, and ADV riders and often are designed for comfort and to be more soundproof. The air vents are also closer toward the top front of the helmet to catch more airflow.
Open face or 3/4 helmets are made of the same material as a full face and have the same padding. However, they do not have the attached chin bar, so are not as aerodynamic or offer the same level of protection.
The open face means the face is exposed, and there are more seams where wind noise can enter. Some helmets have a flip-down or snap-on face shield top protect from dust and rain, but it does nothing to decrease wind noise.
Off-road or motocross helmets are full-face helmets with an attitude. They have a more angular chin bar, lack the face shield, and have a sun peak.
They are lighter and have more ventilation since motocross is a highly physical ride, and usually occurs in warm weather. The helmets are designed for off road, so aren’t as soundproof, plus the sun peak would catch the wind too much.
Half helmets cover the top half of the head. They offer minimal protection, even if they are DOT approved. They are lightweight and have lots of airflow exposure, which also means much more noise.
Head protection in an accident isn’t much better than a helmetless rider.
Novelty helmets are made to look like German or Allied WWI and WWII army helmets, like skulls or SCI-FI characters. Many are not DOT approved, even if you buy the sticker and add it.
Those that are authentic DOT approved helmets offer similar head and sound protection to the half helmet.
Dual-sport helmets will do highway and off-road, so are ideal for certain bikes that are built for both – two helmets in one. The versatile design has greater ventilation and a more aerodynamic sun peak like the off road but has the built-in face shield and better soundproofing of the full face.
The chin bar protrudes more than on a full face but less than on a true off road. Additionally, the face shield can be flipped up to permit the use of goggles when necessary.
What Makes a Helmet Quiet?
Biker helmets are designed to protect the head and neck, be comfortable, and only recently to protect from road and wind noise which can exceed 100 dB. Some manufacturers post NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) values for their helmets.
Other makers may test their helmets, but don’t post an NRR since there is no standard method of testing or for comparison – so the same NRR value may differ greatly from brand to brand.
Helmets can be loud if they don’t fit properly or are cheaply or poorly made. You don’t want total silence when riding; part of the fun is the sound and feel of the ride. However, helmets that don’t cut the wind or road sound can make the ride uncomfortable.
Once your speed zips over 40 mph, the noise of the wind across the ears begins to exceed the engine and road noise. The less protection the helmet offers, or more exposed the face and ears, the greater the wind disturbance and potential for hearing damage and loss.
An aerodynamic design can drastically cut wind drag and noise. The fewer contours to catch the wind, the quieter it will be – one reason the full-face helmet is the quietest model. The interior padding also insulates against sound.
The padding may be soft or hard foam, or a combination, or even memory foam. The foam composition also plays a part; open and closed cell material will absorb or trap noise differently.
Additionally, the padding may be layered to allow for a better fit, which makes it quieter too.
The placement of the air ducts is important for cooling, and also to keep the noise away from the ears. Additionally, a chin curtain improves the sound control of the helmet.
The higher the quality, the better it will seal between the chin bar and chin to reduce wind funneling into the helmet. Some helmets come with them, or it can be purchased separately.
Another option is advanced noise cancellation. It is a system that creates a reverse soundwave of what you would normally hear – picked up by a microphone at the ear, and played back through an ear speaker to reduce harmful noise levels.
Quiet Helmet Brands
There are many biker helmet brands manufactured around the world. However, if buying a helmet in North America, ensure it has either the DOT or SNELL sticker or both. If neither is present, try a different helmet.
Europe and the UK have similar safety standards to look for too. The 5 Brands identified here are more commonly available; they are not ranked, just in reverse alphabetical.
Shoei is a Japanese manufacturer that began in 1958 and makes excellent helmets that are both safe and comfortable. They were the first to make carbon fiber helmets and also to use Kevlar to strengthen their product.
Although expensive, the helmets are designed to reduce wind and road noise, so earplugs aren’t necessary. They have a built-in sun visor and are warrantied for 5-years.
Shark Helmets was founded by professional motorcycle racers and have been manufactured in France since 1986. They are presently owned by the Australian Company, 2R Holdings, which also owns the Italian manufacturer of Nolan Helmets.
Shark focuses on performance and safety and is known for its design and tech work. The helmets are aerodynamic – so quiet, offer a high level of protection, have a quick-release visor, and are expensive.
HJC has made helmets since 1971 and claims the world title for being the #1 helmet manufacturer for the past 17 years or more. The South Korean company manufactures mid to high-end helmets in Korea and Vietnam and distributes them worldwide.
They have their own wind tunnel for testing design features, including aerodynamics and noise. The affordable helmets are designed for comfort and are equipped with earplugs to reduce noise.
Bell Helmet Company started in 1956 as a division of Bell Auto Parts. It is an American company that uses Chinese and American parts to manufacture helmets. They produced the first full-face and the first full-face off-road helmet.
The helmets are well designed and comfortable but tend to be heavy and also noisy. Most Bell helmets are both DOT and SNELL certified.
Arai is a family-owned Japanese firm with more than 70 years making hand-built helmets which are quality tested throughout the assembly process. Arai uses DOT and SNELL standards as the baseline of their helmets, so the finished product exceeds them, making them more expensive than others.
The lightweight helmets have a chin deflector and are designed to minimize wind and road noise and to be comfortable. They have good venting and SNELL and DOT certified.
Manufacturers are making improvements to helmets every year. They are quieter, safer, better fitting, and more aerodynamic.
The top 10 quietest helmets may be different next year, but the goal is to protect your hearing and your head. Even the quietest helmet may need some help though.
Hopefully, you found something in this article to help stop the ringing in your ears at the end of a ride. If you found the information of use, let us know, and share it with others who may find it helpful.
Full article with thanks to https://bettersoundproofing.com/best-quietest-motorcycle-helmets/