Hearing Loss Caused by Driving With Windows Down, Radio Turned Up Loud?


Was wondering what factors might have contributed to my age-related high frequency hearing loss. While our daughters were teenagers (many years ago), they got the good cars and I happily drove a 1986 Toyota Camry with a dead air conditioner all around Texas on various Interstates at 70 to 75 mph with all four windows rolled down and rock 'n roll turned up loud enough to hear over the wind/road noise in the windows.

Searching around on the Internet, the common opinion seems to be driving at high speed with the windows down can be a source of hearing loss and one person even claimed that it’s commonly known factor for motorcycle riders (and from the phrasing didn’t think the poster meant just engine noise).

Searched the forum here but just skimming hits for “driving loss,” “wind loss,” etc., didn’t come across any real discussion of the topic. Guess I should get out on the Interstate with all the windows down, turn up the radio, and use my phone Sound Meter app to see what sort of decibel level I hit when I recreate the days of yore driving experience. I’ll add that info to this thread when I have a chance to check it out.



A Google search on “Does driving with windows down cause hearing loss?” yields some pretty definitive YES results.

A 2010 study of just the wind/road noise in top-down/windows-down convertibles showed the average noise level to be 89 dB. Playing the radio loud as I did would certainly jack things up a bit more.

The chart in the following Johns Hopkins article on preventing noise-induced hearing loss rates the sound level caused by driving at high speeds with the windows down as being in the 85 to 95 dB range. So, Yep, with the radio blaring away, and driving 4 to 6 hours each way on a trip as I did, I bet that I suffered a bit of hearing loss from that proclivity over the years. I enjoyed a great “feel of the open road” experience, though!


I drove a car with window down for a few minutes, will that damage my hearing?

I’m sure the combination of the two sources wouldn’t help! Especially since one is going to crank the radio to hear over the wind noise.

That said, high frequency loss for some is simple a fact of life, like losing your eye sight as you age. It just happens.

One can look for a cause, but you can never say for sure.

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I agree with you 100%. It’s just higher up on the awareness scale of things that I probably shouldn’t have done that weren’t too likely to help. Riding NYC subways and sitting a few rows away from the Doors speakers during a concert in the 1960’s probably didn’t help much either!- but since my date, who bought the tickets, was a Doors fanatic, I couldn’t imagine seeking relief for serious pain by walking out on her and the concert. Just like the wind/radio noise, it didn’t even occur to me in doing these things that the damage could be permanent. Maybe as part of secondary education, there should be some indoctrination on hearing loss with age (so kids are more understanding of us old folks!) and teaching that you shouldn’t try to help nature out too much by doing the wrong things. If I’d known then what I know now, I might have worn appropriate ear protection or headphones while driving with the windows down, riding the subway, and going to rock concerts. I think, too, that I rode my riding mower a few decades ago at least a time or two before my ears requested that I get them some hearing protection… It’s been about 55 years since I was in secondary school, so maybe they teach kids “more better” about loud noises as a public health concern these days… I certainly hope so. Just seeing the Johns Hopkins noise level chart that I reference earlier in this thread would have kept me out of a bunch of potential trouble.