Motorcyclists speaks out over hearing problems

Former motorbike racer Steve Parish has spoken out over the long-term hearing problems associated with his career.

The three times British champion began his love affair with racing when he was just 11 years old. His long and distinguished career meant he spent around 30 hours a week exposed to dangerous engine noise:

"I'd spend all day Saturday and Sunday racing and practising and then during the week I'd be in my workshop surrounded by noisy engines," says Steve.

"I remember revving up my Yamaha bike, which without a silencer is about 125 decibels. Not wearing earplugs was natural because I could hear exactly what the engine was doing."

Steve turned professional at the age of 22, signing with the Suzuki Grand Prix team, winning his first title two years later. His hearing loss went undetected until he retired:

"I was at Donington Park Racing Circuit where there happened to be a hearing specialist carrying out tests," he says. “I was only 32 but had lost 30 per cent of my hearing."

After retiring from motorcycling, Steve moved into truck racing, claiming five world titles driving monster trucks. “I was surprised that I could have hearing issues at 32. I started wearing ear defenders there and then."

His hearing loss became palpable. "I struggled with high pitched sounds, such as an alarm going off."

While his hearing loss does not stop him from enjoying his new love, commentating for the BBC, it has affected his ability in other areas of his life, particularly in his job as an expert witness for motor racing accidents:

 "I'd sit in court struggling to hear what lawyers and judges were saying," he says.

Steve now wears a hearing aid, which does improve the quality of his hearing, although not enough to reverse the damage already done:

"It took a few days for me to get used to the hearing aid but it has made living my frantic life much easier. I can even hear the clicking of the indicators on my car.

"To those worrying about wearing a hearing aid I'll say this, if you don't do it for yourself do it for your friends and family because not having to constantly repeat themselves makes their lives a whole lot easier too," adds Steve.

If you are a regular motorcyclist it is important that you invest in a good set of earplugs, otherwise you could soon develop hearing problems, just like Steve.

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