Auto Noise

(Question from a reader in the USA)

How do you recommend I reduce the road noise, driving my older car? It is wearing and I suspect not good for my deteriorating hearing. I can't afford a new car. What ear phones are ok to use while driving?

Reply from Noise Help:

It's good to be concerned, because it's true that long road trips with a constant level of loud noise can contribute to hearing damage. Even if it's not loud enough to cause hearing damage, noise can contribute to mental fatigue, which reduces alertness and can lead to accidents.

There are several steps you can take to reduce the road noise without having to buy a new car:
  • Replace the tires with quieter ones. A lot of road noise is caused by tires rolling on the road surface, so you can reduce the noise quite a bit by using quieter tires.
  • Ride with the windows rolled up. Use the air conditioner or heater instead if you need to.
  • Bring your car to the shop and have them make sure the doors are aligned properly when they are closed. A surprising amount of noise can be produced if the doors are out of alignment and the air rushes past the tiny protrusions or gaps.

Each one of these will help reduce the noise. If you can do more than one of them, so much the better. You can also have soundproofing material added to the car, but this is a more expensive proposition and generally is most effective only after the primary sources of noise (tires and wind noise) have been addressed.

For passengers, ear plugs would be great. Of course you can also wear ear plugs while driving, but it's not legal in some areas, and also it reduces your ability to hear sirens and other warning signals, so it's a safety hazard.

In general I wouldn't recommend earphones (with music or other sound playing), because they will add to the total noise rather than reducing it. Passengers might want to consider wearing canalphones, which are like ear plugs with an earphone built in; these would reduce the total noise as long as the volume is kept low. Again, I wouldn't recommend these for the driver, for safety reasons.

I hope this gives you some practical ideas you can use!


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