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Rock Concerts, Hearing Loss, Tinnitus

Sep 18, 2012 2:35 PM, By Jeff Carroll, Ph.D.

Prevention and treatment


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The louder the music, the more fans rave. That ringing in your ears after a concert usually goes away within hours or days. But what if it persists? That’s the experience for millions of people who deal with tinnitus.

Why is it a problem?

Any time you experience brief tinnitus due to noise exposure, it is typically accompanied by a similar duration of slightly reduced hearing. This is known as a temporary threshold shift because your hearing typically returns to normal and the tinnitus disappears.

Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize until it’s too late is that every time you experience a temporary threshold shift, you likely did a small amount of permanent damage. Over time this can accumulate, causing permanent hearing loss and noticeable tinnitus. Current research suggests a high degree of correlation between hearing loss and tinnitus.

How can you prevent it?

The key to preventing permanent tinnitus and hearing loss is to protect your hearing every time you are exposed to loud sounds. Traditional earplugs made of expandable foam or moldable silicone adequately block dangerous levels of sound, but they also unfortunately reduce different frequencies in different ways—altering the sound quality of the music.

There are, however, some great options, such as custom-made, in-ear monitors for musicians. After an audiologist makes an ear impression, custom earpieces are created. They are then wired to audio output to allow a direct music feed that can be controlled at a comfortable level. So instead of the sound coming out of stage monitors or the venue speakers, the ear mold would control the volume.

Another high-end option would be an electronic earplug that passes soft sounds unaltered, and compresses louder sounds into the safe range without distortion. Less expensive options include musicians’ earplugs, which typically contain a filter and are designed to block out all frequencies equally to provide protection while maintaining sound quality.

How can you treat it?

So what do you do if you already have some permanent damage and are now experiencing tinnitus? If it is affecting the quality of your life, see an audiologist. This specialist can determine the best course of treatment, including whether you need to see a physician. The most effective treatment for tinnitus is sound therapy and there are many options. For example, those with hearing loss in addition to mild tinnitus may benefit from hearing aids.

New research suggests that a specific type of soft sound developed by hearing researchers at the University of California, Irvine, may interfere with a patient’s tinnitus while listened to at a softer volume than traditional approaches. Patients may be more likely to comply with a sound therapy regimen when listening to softer sounds. These new, soft sounds are known as S-Tones and are available in the Serenade device from SoundCure.

Jeff Carroll, Ph.D., is Director of Clinical Services and Engineering for SoundCure, Inc., and is an inventor of a new sound therapy device for treating tinnitus called Serenade. Dr. Carroll was the founding director of the Tinnitus Treatment Center at the University of California, Irvine, and has worked with hundreds of tinnitus patients over the past decade. For more information about Serenade, visit www.soundcure.com.



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