New year – New Convertible? – be careful

Convertible - bad for Health?

Convertible - bad for Health?

If you find yourself at the start of 2011 jealous of that neighbour with the shiny new Convertible – Don’t be!

According to, a new study has found that driving a convertible with the top down can put the driver at an increased risk of hearing damage.

US Researchers have found that driving in excess of 55 miles per hour put the drivers at an increased risk of noise induced hearing loss.

The study was carried out using five different makes and models of cars.

Sound level measurements in 80% of the cars at 88.5 km per hour with the top down had maximum sound recordings greater than 85 decibels. Exposure of noise above 85 decibels for prolonged periods is not recommended and the higher the noise level, the shorter the recommended exposure time.

At 120.7 km per hour (75 mph) the average noise exposure inflicted on the driver of a convertible car driven with the top down was 89.9 decibels. Furthermore, not only was the average noise exposure excessive with the top open, but the driver was also exposed to extreme noise ‘spikes’ while driving on a motorway, for example, when driving next to a motorcycle or lorry.

The study was undertaken using a sound level meter operated by a passenger in each car tested. The passenger took a series of between eight and ten sound level measurements at various points in the journey from the position of the driver’s left ear, at various speeds. During all data collection, the car radio was turned off, there was no conversation between occupants, air conditioning was turned off, the car horn was not used and there was no rain or other inclement weather.

The researchers noted that drivers of convertible cars may also be exposed to additional noise when listening to the car radio. Even for comfortable listening, the radio volume levels required while driving under the conditions assessed in this study are likely to add significantly to the noise exposure level.

However, the study did note that no excessive noise levels were recorded from any tested car driven with the top closed, meaning there is no more than minimal risk of excessive noise exposure when driving with the convertible top closed.

“When the convertible automobiles were driven with the top open, high levels of noise were consistently recorded. Although driving for short distances under such levels of noise exposure is unlikely to cause a significant degree of noise-induced hearing loss, our study demonstrates that long duration driving at high speeds with the convertible top open will increase the driver’s risk of hearing damage.

“In light of the results of this study, we are recommending that drivers be advised to drive with the top closed when travelling for extended periods of time at speeds exceeding 85 km per hour,” said lead researcher, Dr AA Mikulec, of the Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Details of these findings are published in The Journal of Laryngology and Otology

So, if you are planning a new job and a new car for the new year – don’t get a Convertible!

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