Driving a convertible? Your hearing may be at risk

Thu Oct 8, 2009 4:07am EDT
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SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Driving a convertible with the roof down might be exhilarating, but it could also damage your hearing, according to British scientists.

In a study conducted using seven different convertibles on British motorways, researchers measured the noise levels when driving at speeds of 50, 60, and 70 miles per hour (80, 97 and 113 km per hour).

They found at those speeds that drivers are consistently exposed to between 88 and 90 decibels, with a high of 99 due to a combination of noise from road surfaces, traffic congestion and the wind. There was no marked difference between different models of cars.

The noise level of normal conversation is 60 decibels.

"Long or repeated exposure to sounds over 85 decibels is widely recognized to cause permanent hearing loss," said researcher Philip Michael, an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Britain.

"While motorcyclists are well versed in using ear protection, this study highlights that drivers of convertible automobiles may also be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss."

The research was presented to a meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation and published in the medical journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.

But Michael, who presented the research, said there was no need to trade that convertible in for a hardtop.

The simple act of keeping car windows raised would significantly reduce noise exposure levels to 82 decibels, even with the top down.

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

<p>A Rolls Royce convertible is seen parked on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California August 5, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>