If you’ve given up the thrill of riding motorcycles for the joy of top-down motoring in a convertible because it’s safer, I’ve got some bad news for you. Driving a convertible at high speeds, it seems, is hazardous to your hearing, according to a recent study by the St. Louis University School of Medicine and the the Ear Institute of Texas. Researchers found that in-cabin turbulence above 55 miles per hour, added to increased road noise, was enough to cause noticeable (and irreversible) hearing loss. Unlike riding a motorcycle with a full face helmet, using ear plugs appeared to have no benefit to convertible drivers.
The study examined five convertibles (the 2009 Saturn Sky, the 2004 Nissan 350Z, the 2001 Porsche 911 Carrera 4, the 2005 Saab Aero and a 2005 Ford Mustang GT), and measured sound above 85 decibels in 80 percent of the cars when driven at 55 miles per hour. Sustained exposure to sound levels above 85 decibels is known to cause hearing loss and requires the use of ear protection when encountered in the workplace.
To no one’s surprise, measured noise increased with vehicle speed, so the faster you drive, the sooner you go deaf. The study concluded that convertible drivers should go top-up at highway speeds, and reserve top down motoring for the lower speed back roads. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
The surprising thing is that only one newer convertible (the discontinued Saturn Sky) was used in the study. I can tell you that there’s a huge difference in cabin noise between early model Miatas and the current generation, so it stands to reason that there may be a significant difference between a 2005 Mustang and a 2011 Mustang, or between the 2004 Nissan 350Z and the 2011 Nissan 370Z. As for me, this study won’t change my convertible driving habits one bit: life is too short to worry about every single risk.
Source: Motor Authority