Convertibles can make you deaf

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Do you drive a convertible? I said, do you drive a convertible? Because new research shows that you may be damaging your hearing.

A study from the St Louis University School of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology and the Ear Institute of Texas is warning that convertible drivers should keep the top down at speeds of more than 55mph.

The team tested the 2009 Saturn Sky Red Line, the 2004 Nissan 350Z, the 2001 Porsche 911 C4, the 2005 Saab Aero Convertible and the 2005 Ford Mustang GT. All hit high noise levels when being driven at speed.

They found that drivers were regularly subjected to noise levels greater than 85dB, the top level reccomended for safety at work, and that there was a risk or long-term hearing loss from prolonged periods of driving with the wind in their hair.

"Driving convertible automobiles at speeds exceeding 88.5kmh, with the top open, may result in noise exposure levels exceeding recommended limits, especially when driving with the convertible top open for prolonged periods," the authors conclude.

In what must have made for some fun research, the team tested various different vehicles. They found that the Saturn was the noisiest, hitting 98.7dB at 75mph - a noise level that the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety says should only be sustained for 20 minutes or less.

Nissan’s 350Z produced the loudest peak sound, reaching 104dB at 75mph - safe for only six minutes, says the Institute. The quietest vehicle, the team found, was the Mustang, which only hit 84.7dB at 75mph.

The effects could be worse, they say, if drivers are listening to music or having a conversation.