Topalwaysdown means you could get hearing damage. Studies from several reputable and trusted groups have confirmed that driving over 55mph in a vehicle with the top and windows down can cause long term hearing and PERMANENT hearing damage.
A recent study by a respected British Hospital recently tried out vehicles including some of our favorites – the MR2, Miata, Audi A4 convertible, Porsche 911 Convertible, and even a Bentley Convertible. The study found that at 70mph the cars (all of them) made well over 85 decibels – the internationally accepted level for permanent damage. Add in a loud radio and a screaming exhaust note – you’re seriously risking permanent and debilitating issues.
Damage means several things – you might not be able to hear at all, you might have trouble distinguishing very high and/or very low sounds, or worse, you can get permanent ringing in the ears. Bad news.
Here is a fine example of getting your ear drums crushed.
The study also showed that below 55mph there is virtually no risk. Keep in mind this is a time vs. loudness issue. 85 decibels can be sustained for several hours without damage. However, as the loudness goes up (particularly past about 100 decibels) damage happens faster. At 120dB the damage is almost instant. The louder the sound, the less exposure the ear can withstand.
Tricks. A good idea is to roll the windows up. This dropped the interior sound by an average of 5-7 decibels. Which can get the noise below the magic “85″ number.
Ear Plugs. We can’t harp on these enough. Buy good ones, the cheap foam ones work well for passengers, but we find they block out a lot of important road noises – like the honking semi about to eat you. The best have pass through or “hear-through” channels. Motorcyclists often swear by these. A few brands we’ve found to like include Surefire with their EP3, EP4, and EP6. Also, Etymotics makes the ER20. These run for less than $15.00 a set and are a great investment.
The moral of the story is that if you’re going to take a longer trip, particularly at sustained highway speeds over 55mph, wear ear plugs. This can take the sound levels from 90dB to 70dB for pennies on the dollar. And you won’t be saying “what?” every time someone says something to you after age 35.