Welcome to the Hearing Loss FAQ section of our web
site. Here you will find answers to commonly asked questions related
to hearing loss.
The first twenty or so questions will provide a good
overview of the state of knowledge in the field and together can be
used as a primer, or "short course" in "Musicians and the Prevention
of Hearing Loss".
The research backing up the answers can be found in
the "Articles" section.
To ask a question that has not already been posted, please click on
the link at the bottom of the page to send us an e-mail with your
What happens when we get a music related
Most people reach the ripe old age of 50 without any hearing
problems, but others suffer a very slow and gradual hearing loss
that may not be noticed for years. Certainly working in a noisy
factory is one such cause. And listening to loud music is another.
The ear is made up of three parts- the outer ear, the middle ear,
and you guessed it, the inner ear. The inner ear is about the size
of a small finger nail and contains about 15,000 nerve endings,
called hair cells. When some of these hair cells are damaged, you
have a permanent hearing loss. Damage to the outer and middle ears
is usually temporary and can be treated by a doctor.
What are some other causes of permanent
Other than hearing loss associated with aging (called presbycusis),
the single greatest cause is working around noise. The ear does not
know the difference between loud noise and loud music. To the ear,
noise and music are just vibrations in the air. Rarely, a person may
suffer a permanent hearing loss from a virus or even a brain tumor.
These usually have a sudden onset and may be accompanied by
dizziness. Hearing loss from noise or music tends to be gradual in
nature with no dizziness. If one experiences dizziness or a sudden
hearing loss, one should contact their doctor.
Can my hearing loss be treated with medicine or
Only hearing losses that are from the middle ear (where kids get ear
infections) or from the outer ear (such as wax occlusion) can be
treated. Rarely can a hearing loss be treated if it is from the
inner ear. The inner ear is actually in the brain, so inner ear
surgery is brain surgery! Having said all this, researchers are
working on a "vacination" that can be given to reverse inner ear
hearing loss- as more information becomes available, look in the
"What's New" section of this website.
I went to a concert last
night and my ears are still ringing. Will this stop?
The ringing is called tinnitus. Actually, tinnitus refers to any
noises that are heard in the head, that don't come from the outside.
Tinnitus comes in two flavours- objective and subjective. Objective
tinnitus is tinnitus that can be heard by other people. This is very
rare, and is usually related to blood vessel problems in the ear.
Subjective tinnitus is much more common and refers to the type of
tinnitus that only the person can hear. But, to answer your
question. You are probably suffering from TTS from the concert.
Well, ... thank you for
that, but what is TTS?
What a good question! TTS stands for Temporary Threshold Shift. This
is a fancy way of saying temporary hearing loss. After a loud
concert, or a day in the factory, your hearing is temporarily
reduced. After about 16 hours to 18 hours, this resolves and your
hearing should return to the level it was before (hopefully normal).
When the hearing is reduced, there is frequently tinnitus, which is
especially noticed in quiet places such as when you are trying to
sleep. The tinnitus and hearing loss (sometimes felt as a numbness
in your ears) should completely resolve after 16 hours.
If my tinnitus goes away
after 16 hours, is it safe to go to another concert after?
The short answer is "yes" and "no". It is true that the ear recovers
after about 16 hours and can take on new challenges of loud music,
but TTS is a warning signal of being exposed to too much music. If
you go to a rock concert on Friday night, don't mow your lawn until
Sunday (or better yet, get someone else to do it!) However, once you
have a music related (or noise related) hearing loss, it is
permanent, so do whatever it takes to prevent it. Certainly
moderation is one idea. Enjoy that loud song, but when its over,
turn down the volume abit to give your ears a rest.
What else can happen as my
hearing gets worse?
In some sense, hearing loss is the least of your worries. After all,
it is very gradual, and only affects the very high pitched sounds...
so you may not notice it for years to come. But, with hearing loss
comes two other things that can be very annoying- or if you are a
musician, can be career ending. They are pitch perception problems
and permanent tinnitus. Pitch perception problems, as the name
suggests, means that a person with a significant hearing loss may
hear one note as another (and have limited understanding for
speech). And can you imagine having a constant hum or whistle in
your head day and night? This is what many people report with
permanent tinnitus. So,... prevention of hearing loss is where its
So what can be done if I do
have tinnitus that won't go away?
Don't panic- this is rather uncommon, but it does occur on occasion.
There is almost always a hearing loss associated with the tinnitus.
Using a small hearing aid (and there are some that fit invisibly
into the ear canal) not only will help you hear better, but will
tend to mask or block out the tinnitus in the majority of people.
Being overly concerned about it is another problem. The last thing
someone should do is become stressed as this may make the tinnitus
more noticeable. There are therapy programs that serve to retrain
the brain to ignore tinnitus and these can be very successful.
Contact your local audiologist or doctor if this becomes a problem.
I understand that rock
music can be damaging to my hearing, but I can't believe that Mozart
or Beethoven can be bad for me.
Believe it or not, but Classical music- or specifically playing
classical music- can be more damaging than rock music. Research has
shown that about 37% of rock musicians have a hearing loss, and
about 52% of classical musicians suffer from this problem. The main
difference is that classical musicians rehearse, perform, and teach
more hours each week than typical rock musicians. And classical
musicians tend to be clustered closer together than rock musicians.
So even though the peak sound levels in a rock band may be higher
than in an orchestra, the total weekly doseage of a classical
musician is greater.
Are there any other
differences between classical musicians and rock musicians besides
You mean, beyond the long hair? Although this next issue is highly
variable, many classical musicians don't like their music as much as
rock musicians do. It is this liking of the music that is partially
responsible for the difference in susceptibility between rock and
classical musicians. Research has shown (see some of the articles in
the "Articles" section of this website) that if you like the music,
it is actually less damaging than if you don't like it. Classical or
orchestra musicians may play the same piece of music countless
times, and become bored with it. In addition, an orchestra musician
has their music selected for them by a conductor or artistic
director. They may not like the selected pieces. In contrast, a rock
musician tends to play their own music- music that they love. This
research has been replicated many different ways, always with
similar results. So, go ahead and enjoy your music (in moderation).
Let me get this straight.
If I like my music, it is less damaging to my hearing?!
Well, sort of... technically, its not so much that liking the music
is good for us- its if we don't like the music, it is worse. We're
not sure exactly why that happens, but there are two theories. One
is that when you are under stress, certain hormones are released in
your inner ear that makes it more susceptible to hearing loss. A
second theory is related to the fact that there are a series of
feedback loops from the brain back to the inner ear. These feedback
signals can change the susceptibility of the inner ear to damage. If
the music is pleasureable, the feedback from the part of the brain
corresponding to hearing, reduces the susceptibility.
So what are the factors
affecting hearing loss?
The two main factors are how intense the music or noise is, and how
long one has been exposed to it. We know from research that
prolonged exposure to 85 decibels (dB) or greater, over time will
cause a permanent hearing loss. A level of 85 dB is not particularly
loud- a dial tone on a telephone is about that! Even though it is
not loud, it is intense enough to be damaging. But, it also depends
on how long you are exposed to it. Research has found that the
maximum exposure each week should be less than 85 dB for 40 hours.
This is identical to 88 dB for only 20 hours. That is, for each
increase of 3 decibels, you can only be exposed for half as long.
Saying it differently, for every 3 decibel increase, your exposure
doubles. Other less significant factors are your liking of the
music, general health, and hereditary factors.
I listen to my Walkman at
about half volume. Is this level OK?
Well, lets find out. We know that Walkmans generate about 85
decibels at about 1/3 volume control. Many Walkmans yield about 95
decibels at half volume. Let's do some math- 85 dB for 40 hours, is
the same as 88 dB for 20 hours, which is the same as 91 dB for 10
hours, and this is the same as 94 dB for 5 hours each week.
Therefore you can listen to your Walkman safely at one half volume
for about 5 hours each week. If your favourite song comes on, turn
up the volume and enjoy, but be sure to turn it back down after.
There is an interesting case study in the "articles" section of this
site by Brian Fligor. Take a look at it!
I have tried earplugs but
they sound hollow. Also, I can't really hear the high end. Are there
Because of the laws of physics, earplugs lessen (attenuate) the
sound energy for the higher pitches more than the lower bass notes.
Typically earplugs will cause a hollow sound without much high end.
About a decade ago, a company named Etymotic Research came out with
a "flat" earplug- one that lessens the sound energy for the high
pitched notes as much as for the low bass notes. These use a small
acoustic amplifier that puts back many of the high pitched sounds.
Musicians and music listeners then can hear their music unaffected,
except that its at a non-damaging level. These earplugs come in
several amounts of protection- 9 decibels of protection (ER-9),15
decibels of protection (ER-15) and 25 decibels of protection
(ER-25). Different musicians use different earplug.
I'm a drummer and sometimes
when I wear earplugs, my wrists hurt. What is happening here?
Wow! Its as if I wrote this question myself! I see this clinically
all of the time. You will also find some information on this in the
articles in the "Articles" section. Many drummers use industrial
strength earplugs, like those used in factories. These earplugs take
off alot of the sound of the high hat cymbal and rim shot of the
drum. The drummer needs to hit harder in order to hear properly,
with the result of wrist and arm damage. Using proper ear protection
will resolve this. Drummers should be using the ER-25 earplug-
enough ear protection to prevent further hearing loss, and enough
audibility of the music, so that they will not overplay.
I've seen musicians on TV
wearing what look like hearing aids connected to small wires. What
These are called in-the-ear monitors, and they are a form of a
modified hearing aid. Musicians use them as their own monitoring
system instead of the small "wedge" monitors on the floor of the
stage. The wires are connected to the sound amplification system
either directly or though a wireless transmitter. The musician can
then hear their own music as well as that of the other musicians,
but at a safe level. When musicians use in-the-ear monitors, the
overall sound level on stage is typically much less than if they
were using conventional wedge monitors.
I play the bass in a band,
but can't really hear myself play because the drummer is so loud. Is
there anything that I can do?
Unfortunately (for bass players) they usually stand near the
drummer. Many bass players (and drummers) use a special type of
loudspeaker called a "shaker". These small hockey puck sized devices
are designed to enhance the very low pitched bass notes. Shakers are
plugged into the main sound amplification system. With this set-up,
the bass players and drummers have a better awareness of their own
music, and as such, do not have to play as loud. The overall sound
level is less, but everyone thinks they are playing louder. The
musicians are happy and the music is less damaging.
I practice in a small room.
What changes can I make to reduce the sound levels. P.S. I don't
have much money.
There are some inexpensive changes you can make. Wall coverings and
floor coverings are the two easiest things you can do. If there is
nothing on the walls, try putting up some heavy drapes. These will
absorb many of the undesireable reflections. Also, carpeting will
serve the same purpose for those reflections from the floor. A drop
ceiling is starting to get abit costly, but this will also help.
Finally, you should be using ear protection such as the ER-15 or
ER-25. These will let you hear your music, but at a safe level.
I have seen some clear
plastic shields up on stage in front of the drummer. What are these
used for and do they work?
These are called baffles and are usually made of Plexiglas or lucite.
All baffles, because of the laws of physics, attenuate (or lessen)
the higher pitched sounds more than the lower bass notes. These
baffles are designed to lessen the energy for those high pitched
high hat cymbals, and rim shot hits that a drummer may make. This
protects the other musicians and helps to improve the balance of the
music. Note that the low bass thumping sounds from the bass drum is
not really affected. The only "trick" with baffles is that they
should not extend up above the drummer's ear. The last thing anyone
would want is to cause more hearing loss in the drummer by being
forced to hear his music, not once, but twice (the initial sound and
the reflection off the back of the baffle).
I have also seen some
baffles hooked onto the back of some seats at the symphony. What are
these used for?
These are typically used on the seats of violinists and viola
players. In many cases, these musicians need to sit in front of the
brass or percussion sections, and they serve to lessen the energy
from these louder instruments. The only problem with a seat baffle
is that it has to be within 7 inches (18 cm for Canadians, eh?) of
the violinist's ear. If it is further away, there is minimal benefit
because of the reflections off the floor, ceiling, and music stands.
Can I do anything with my
loudspeakers to hear better and to protect myself from further
Loudspeakers do not send all sounds out equally. Typically the low
pitched bass notes emanate from all parts of the loudspeaker- bass
notes are equally loud from the back, front, top and sides. However,
the higher pitched notes come out almost like a laser beam- in a
straight line. If the loudspeakers can be tilted to aim towards your
ears, you will hear a flatter, "more true" sound. And, more
importantly, if the loudspeaker is aimed at your ears, the overall
volume control level will be lower. In this way, even though the
music will sound as loud, it will be less intense. That means it
will be less damaging. Intensity is what causes hearing loss,
whereas loudness is simply your impression of the sound. Some
researchers suggest elevating the loudspeakers, and this can be
useful, but be careful. Some loudspeakers are designed to be left on
the floor. Check with the manufacturer before you elevate
loudspeakers to see if this would be a problem.
When I go to a concert in a
large venue, the band is set back from the edge of the stage. Is
this to protect them from the fans?
How observant you are! It may be to protect them, but there is an
acoustic reason as well. The lip of the stage in front of the band
or orchestra acts as an acoustic mirror. That is, the higher pitched
sounds of the band not only come off the stage to the audience but
also reflect off the lip of the stage, thereby enhancing the higher
pitched sounds. The band members don't have to play as loud up on
stage in order for the people in the audience to hear it better. Not
only are the musicians performing at a safer level, but the
potential for arm and wrist injuries are lessened.
My friend is a drummer and
whenever he practices, he hums and grunts. Is he weird or is he
doing this for a reason?
He isn't weird (... well, he might be...) but many percussionists
hum and grunt. There is a small muscle in the middle ear that mother
nature gave us so that our own voice would not be too loud to
ourselves (called the stapedial muscle). It has been shown that if
one hums or grunts just prior to a loud sound and continues that hum
through the sound, this muscle in the ear continues to contract,
providing an attenuation (or lessening) of the sound energy. So your
friend is actually protecting his hearing. For more information on
this, look at the article entitled "Musicians and the Prevention of
Hearing Loss" in the "Articles" section.
I teach music in a high
school and the room is awful. Is there anything I can do to improve
it? P.S. I don't have much money.
Actually there are several things you can do that are easy to
accomplish and inexpensive. Incidentally, there is a fact sheet on
this topic in the "Articles" section under "Musician Fact Sheets"
entitled "School band Teachers". You can place the trumpet players
on risers as this will allow the higher pitched harmonics of the
trumpet to literally go over the heads of the other musicians
"downwind". You can put up some drapes over the blackboard behind
you while you are playing in order to dampen the unwanted
reflections. These drapes can be pulled aside when you want to use
the blackboard. Finally, get the Art Department to make some 3-D
relief art that can be placed on the side walls. This will also help
to lessen the unwanted reflections. High school band teachers,
because of the number of hours each week that they must be in a band
room should consider the ER-15 earplugs. Teachers are at risk of
hearing loss and have successfully won cases with the Worker's
Compensation Board in the past.
Do you have any specific
information or suggestions for bagpipers?
Bagpipes are a fascinating instrument- the only "modern" instrument
with no volume control! The output of bagpipes has been measured at
108 dB, and combine that with the drum corps to their rear and you
can have a real problem. The hearing protection of choice is the
ER-15 earplug if the piper is solo and the ER-25 earplug if drums
are around. Of course, the same precautions/moderation should be
taken as other woodwinds. You can check out the "Woodwind" fact
sheet in the "Articles" section of this website for more
What caused Beethovan's
Actually Beethovan was not deaf at all... at least not in the North
American sense. In Europe, any hearing loss, regardless of severity,
is called "deafness". This even would apply to a mild temporary ear
infection. In North America, deafness is considered to be at a
profound level- one that would prevent normal verbal communication.
Beethovan, as far as we can tell, suffered from Otosclerosis.
Otosclerosis is a middle ear hearing loss which today, is surgically
treatable. At most, Beethovan would have had a 60 decibel hearing
loss- one that would still allow him to hear the music quite well.
In addition, otosclerosis has no pitch problems associated with it,
merely a decrease of the loudness of the music. I haven't seen
Beethovan lately, but when I next see him clinically, I will check
What ear plugs do you
suggest for musicians?
There are three major types of ear plugs for musicians- the ER-15,
the ER-25, and vented/tuned ear plugs. The ER-25 is generally only
recommended for drummers. The ER-15 is the ear plug of choice for
most other rock and blues instruments, as well as most classical
instruments. The vented/tuned ear plugs are useful for those
instruments that either do not have much treble sound energy (such
as the acoustic bass and cello), or for those instruments that are
not particularly damaging (such as the clarinet), but have to play
near other noisy instruments, such as the drums. There is an article
in the articles section of this website with this information-
"Musicians and the Prevention of Hearing Loss".
Where can I get musician
Musician ear plugs, like the ER-15, can be obtained from anyone that
makes hearing aids. I would contact an audiologist and they can
either make the ear plugs for you, or send you to someone who
specializes in musicians. Remember however, that while ear plugs are
very important, they are only one of the many things that can be
done to reduce music exposure. Environmental strategies (many of
which are inexpensive) can be very useful. If you have difficulty
finding an audiologist that specializes in musicians (we are rare!),
drop us a line and we'll help to locate one. You can leave your
email address in the "Do you have a question?" section below.
I have had tinnitus for two
years. Is my drumming career over?
Tinnitus is almost always associated with some hearing loss.
Treating the hearing loss may result in "treating the tinnitus".
Most people find that some external noise (either from a hearing aid
or from a "tinnitus masker") tends to block out the tinnitus. That's
why many people with tinnitus do not find that it is as bothersome
when there is background noise. Many musicians find that external
noise allows them to play and enjoy their music. In fact, there is a
type of tinnitus therapy called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)
that has been shown to be successful for many musicians.
So what is Tinnitus
Retraining Therapy (TRT)?
Tinnitus is actually created in the brain- not the ear. The hearing
loss (from too much loud music) causes the nerve endings in the ear
to become damaged. The brain cells that receive the impulses from
these nerve endings say "where is the sound??" These cells become
"lonely" and start to generate their own sound. TRT is a method that
involves counselling and the use of a noise generator (or masker).
The cells in the brain say "Oh! Here is the sound" and gradually
(after a year or so) stop producing their own noise. The tinnitus
dies away (or at least becomes less bothersome and noticeable). Many
audiologists offer this type of tinnitus therapy. You should consult
your local audiologist for more information. Also, click on the
"links" section of this website and click on the link for the
American Academy of Audiology Tinnitus Position Paper. It is an
excellent overview of everything we currently know about tinnitus.
Also, click on the link to the American Tinnitus Association for
Which are more damaging:
low or high frequencies?
Actually this is an important question. A few research studies
concluded that some frequencies are "sligthly" more damaging than
others, but in reality, all frequencies are equally damaging. The
reason we have our worst hearing in the 3000-6000 Hz region (around
the top note of the piano keyboard) has more to do with the way our
ear is made up, rather than the sound(s) that cause the hearing
loss. For this reason, a flute and a bass player would have similar
hearing losses. For more information see the FAQ near the top on
"factors affecting hearing loss".
I play tenor sax in a loud
band and wear ER-25 earplugs. Is the internal sound of myself
playing loud potentially damaging?
This is a common concern for sax and clarinet players- instruments
where the top teeth touch the mouthpiece. Sound can be generated
from the instrument, through the teeth and by way of bone
conduction, go directly to the ear. There are no studies that I know
of about the exact sound level, but indirect evidence suggests that
the sound can be quite intense. One can minimize the potential
effect by ensuring that the earplug does not "trap" the sound in the
ear. This is called the occlusion effect. As a sax player, unless
the band is VERY loud, you should not be wearing an ER-25. At most,
the ER-15 would be sufficient. I'm a clarinet player and I use the
vented/tuned earplugs. These use a small hole that would let the
bone conducted sound out of my ear.
Where can I find someone to
make ER-25 or ER-15 earplugs?
You should contact your state and provincial association for
audiologists or hearing aid dispensers. They can put you in touch
with an audiologist or a hearing aid dispenser that specializes in
musicians. They can also be found in the phone book under
"Audiologist" or "Hearing Aid Dispenser". They are not covered under
any medical program and usually are about $185 a pair in Canada, and
about $150 in the US.
I am a piano tuner. Can
piano tuning lead to hearing loss and should I be wearing ear
Indeed many piano tuners do suffer from hearing loss. Recall that it
is not only the intensity of the sound that causes hearing loss, but
also the duration. A piano tuner can spend many hours each day with
various pianos and like most musically inclined people, tend to also
visit night clubs and other loud venues. The total exposure can add
up quickly. The ER-15 musicians' earplug is the ear protection of
choice. It will protect the piano tuner, while still allow them to
hear the music.
Are there any "open air"
type in-ear monitors that would reduce "occlusion" effect?
This is an excellent question. Once an in-ear monitor is "open"-
i.e., there is an air hole running through the monitor to your ear,
there will be a significant loss of low-frequency sound energy as
well as a loss of protection from intense low-frequency sounds in
the environment. The advantage of course, would be to minimize the
occlusion effect which causes one's own voice to sound hollow and
echoey. Other than creating an air hole, the major way of reducing
the occulsion effect is to make the portion of the in-ear monitor
that extends down the ear canal, as long as possible. This would
also be useful for earplugs. When obtaining the in-ear monitors, or
the musicians' earplugs, ask that the person making the earmold
impression, ensures that the bore will extend beyond the second bend
in the earcanal.
How did you figure out the
dB output of musical instruments?
This is a commonly asked question. I use a specially designed sound
level meter that can be placed in the ear canal or in the vicinity
of the musician. Frequently stated are "peak" or maximum values. The
"average" values may be quite different. Go to the "articles"
section of this website for exact information for each instrument.
Can tinnitus (ringing in
the ears) be treated with ginkgo biloba?
Health food stores frequently sell Gingko Biloba extract as a
treatment for tinnitus. There is no scientific basis behind this. A
recent study from England surveyed over 500 users of Gingki Biloba
and found no significant tinnitus reduction benefit.
What about hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is an awful sounding word meaning an "abnormal
sensitivity to loud sound". People may complain that "medium sounds
are OK but loud sounds that don't bother most people, seem to bother
me!" This is actually an early warning sign of hearing loss. That
is, not only does sound have to be abit louder in order to hear, but
also the tolerance to loud sounds is reduced. Most modern hearing
aids are specially designed to not only amplify softer sounds but
make louder sounds softer. Most people with hyperacusis have a
hearing loss. On rare ocassions, some people with normal hearing
have hyperacusis as well.
Are pitch perception
problems caused by damage to the inner, middle or outer ear? Are
Pitch perception problems can be caused by either a significant
inner ear problem or a problem in more central structures of the
brain. Indeed, perfect pitch is a brain phenomenon, and has little
to do with the hearing mechanism. Once there are pitch perception
problems, little can be done to help the situation. Prevention is
How can I scare my band
mates into using earplugs? They refuse to use them.
This is a common problem. Prior to 1988 there were no earplugs that
could successfully be used by musicians. Today's earplugs (for
example,the ER-15) not only treat all sounds equally but minimize
the occlusion (echoey) effect in the ears. Your band mates' concerns
are outdated. They should contact their local audiologist for an
assessment and information session. Your band mates concerns are
based on old history and have no basis with today's technology.
Could low-frequency hearing
loss be caused by music?
NO. All music (and noise exposure) manifests itself in the higher
frequency region (with the greatest hearing loss being near the top
note on the piano keyboard- being between 3000 Hz and 6000 Hz). If
someone has a low frequency hearing loss it is either related to the
outer and middle ears (eg. wax, ear infecion, or a stiffening of the
bones in the middle ear) or by an unusual condition of the inner
ear. In both cases, you should seek out the medical opinion of an
ear, nose, and thoat doctor (an otolaryngologist). Depending on
where you live, you may require a referral from your family doctor.
Can headphones damage
Headphones are no more damaging than listening to music from a
loudspeaker. One will always adjust the volume to a comfortable
listening level, and the ear doesn't know whether the music is
coming from headphones or a loudspeaker. The potential danger is in
"portable music" where headphones are used in conjuction with
Walkman-like radios. Listening to music in a noisy environment can
be damaging since one tends to turn up the volume over the
I am an electric guitarist
playing in bands who now has Tinnitus. Do I have to stop playing
Tinnitus is a symptom of possible damage to the ear- in your cases,
because of overexposure to loud music. However, the ear is very
resillient and tinnitus typically recovers within a matter of 3 or 4
days (where a temporary hearing loss will typically resolve within
16-18 hours). If you frequently get a period of tinnitus after a
loud set, if at all possible try not to play another gig for several
days. And if definitely consider wearing musician earplugs. Even the
ER-15 earplugs can extend the amount of time you spend around loud
music by a factor of 32 times.
What about hypersensitivity
to noise as a result of exposure to loud music?
People who cannot tolerate even moderately loud sounds can be
suffering from hyperacusis. It can be associated with an inner ear
hearing loss. That is, not only are soft sounds too soft, but loud
sounds are too loud. If there is a hearing loss, special hearing
aids can be recommended that not only make soft sounds louder, but
more importantly, loud sounds softer. For those with normal or near
normal hearing, there is some controversy in the field. Some feel
that earplugs can be useful. Others feel that earplugs are bad since
they can exacerbate the reduced tolerance for loud sounds. Type in "hyperacusis"
to any search engine for more information or contact the American
Tinnitus Association (see link in the "Links" section of this
I really want an i-pod but
my dad says its bad for my hearing.
Fathers are always right (I have three kids) but when it comes to
ipods or other MP3 players, there is nothing wrong with them as long
as you follow the 120/60 rule. There is actually a powerpoint
presentation about ipods in the links section under "Marshall's
power point presentations". The 120/60 rule says that it is safe to
listen to your ipod for 120 minutes each day at 60% volume, and this
will give you half of your daily dose of music exposure. If your
favourite song comes on, turn up the volume, but remember to turn it
back down to a more moderate level after. This will still allow you
to mow the lawn.
Are there hearing aids for
Much work has been done in the last several years to define which is
the best hearing aid for listening or playing music. There is a
power point presentation(along with audio files) in the links
section under "Marshall's power point presentations" on this very
issue. Many hearing aids clip or distort the louder inputs of music
and once this is done, no fancy hearing aid circuitry can improve
things, so... the solution is to use a hearing aid that doesn't clip
or distort the louder inputs of music, and these hearing aids, or
hearing aid modifications are available.
Can a single, short
duration sound cause permanent hearing damage? If so at what level?
This is called "acoustic trauma" and is quite rare. Unlike most
types of hearing loss from loud noise or music which is gradual and
happens over many years, a single intense blast can create a sudden
permanent hearing loss at exactly the frequency of the insulting
sound. A common example is a feedback squeal from a loud speaker- a
permanent hearing loss can occur and will occur at exactly the
frequency of the feedback squeal (eg. 1500 Hz). This example is not
a typically frequency tested by an audiologist so care needs to be
taken to assess as many frequencies as possible during testing in
order to rule this out.
Are noise cancelling
earbuds/headphones better for your hearing?
Portable or recreational music exposure such as those from ipods can
be potentially damaging simply because people listen in noisy
everyday environments. The tendency is to turn up the volume over
the background noise, and this is where the danger lays. Using
either noise cancelling headphones or "isolation" earphones that
lessen the environmental noise means that you don't need to turn up
the volume as much. So, yes, these earphones can be very useful. BUT
beware of not being as able to hear a car coming up behind you!
I'm a rock singer and I use
custom molded In Ear Monitors. Should I be worried about the
occlusion effect ?
Most ear monitors (custom made loudspeakers that fit in the ear) are
made with a long bore, or portion that goes deep in to the ear
canal. This long bore, will serve to minimize the occlusion (or
echoey) effect. If your ear monitors give you this echoey sound,
there are three things that can be done: (1) set the input to the
ear monitors to have LESS bass sound, (2) have the hearing health
care professional that made it for you, drill a small hole called a
vent, or (3) send the ear monitors back to the manufacturer with a
new ear mold impression and have them make the bore as long as
possible. All three of these things will serve to minimize the "echoey"
sensation that you might get.
Click here to send us an e-mail with your question. We will post
the answer on this page the next time we update the FAQ page.
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