Occlusion Effect, Ear Plugs Pointless in Social Situations?

Discussion in 'Support' started by geg1992, Mar 30, 2015.

tinnitus forum
    1. geg1992
      English

      geg1992 Member

      Location:
      England
      Tinnitus Since:
      05/12/2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise exposure + Antibiotics
      The occlusion effect worries me. I never knew much about it before until someone mentioned it on here. I did always wonder when wearing ear plugs if the sound of my voice being louder was causing damage.

      Are there any people who are very knowledgeable of it on here? For example, when at football matches, I wear ear plugs and often talk to my Dad next to me or if I go to a restaurant etc. Based on the background noise being about 90db, according to Wikipedia, the occlusion effect adds on as much as 20db. So, if speaking at 95db to be able to be heard by the other person, the ears are being exposed to as high as 115db. This seems crazy and surely defeats the point of plugs in some situations.

      When at the football, when we score, I, as well as everybody else shouts/yells in excitement. With ear plugs in, I must expose my self to very loud noise! As I guess a yell could be 100db+ , so over 120db with ear plugs in - very worrying.

      Link to Wikipedia page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occlusion_effect

      Any thoughts? I wonder if this is why my T seems to be getting worse...
       
    2. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      It doesn't really work like this because decibels are a logarithmic scale, and the occlusion effect appears to be linear. Meaning, 20db is just an estimate/guess - so your 70db speaking voice might well be raised to 90db - the difference between quiet conversation, and conversation in a bus - but your 100db shout can't actually be raised to 120db, because that's the volume of loud industrial machinery, and your voice simply doesn't have the power to resonate that loudly. Additionally, this effect ONLY appears at all at the very low frequencies, high frequency noise is not affected.

      I'm not an audio engineer, but I cannot find any data, studies or even reasonable conjecture to the effect that the occlusion effect makes earplugs dangerous at usual volume levels. So, I think this is just anxious thinking with no factual basis.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
      • Helpful Helpful x 1
    3. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      @linearb

      Why not just do a bit of research? You seem like a pretty bright guy :) There is a ton of info on the occlusion effect, just google it. It is very real, not anxious thinking.


      image.jpg
       
    4. JTP
      No Mood

      JTP Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Finland
      Tinnitus Since:
      5/2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Shit happens
      No way your own voice goes to 120 dB with earplugs. I am too lazy to dig out any scientific proof, but anybody can test it by comparing 120dB noise with yelling with earplugs on. I can see how the occlusion effect could be a problem when you have hyperacusis though.
       
    5. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      We are talking about internal noise amplified by the occlusion effect. You can't test this without a sealed ear cannal and a microphone placed inside.
       
    6. JTP
      No Mood

      JTP Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Finland
      Tinnitus Since:
      5/2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Shit happens
      Human ear is pretty good at comparing sound levels. We judge absolute sound pressure quite poorly, but in AB test one decibel difference is usually recognized. So comparing by ear should get you into same ballpark. Of course comparing to 120dB environmental noise would be foolish and kind of bad joke from me.
       
    7. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      Well for example: eating carrots with ear plugs in is too loud for me as I have hyperacussis. Without ear plugs in and no occlusion effect I'm ok. I have no idea how loud this is, I wouldn't even want to guess but it is a lot louder with plugs inserted than without. This is not anxious thinking and is something that has proof behind it. It is a well known and proven effect, not just some personal wild theory derived from anxious thinking like some would suggest.
       
    8. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      Surely, I have read all this.

      The occlusion effect is a real thing, I wasn't trying to dispute that.

      I am disputing the claim that usually loud environments (eg, bars, restaurants) -- which may be over the line for noise exposure, especially for someone with tinnitus -- are unsafe with earplugs in because of the occlusion effect. That is an extraordinary claim which flies in the face of everything I've ever been told by ENTs and hearing specialists -- and I have not been able to find any evidence it's true, or even serious conjecture that it might be. So, when you have an idea which is unconventional, not supported by any available evidence, contradicts the prevailing views, and is scary... that sounds like anxious thinking to me!

      Also note that I am not saying that the occlusion effect can't make ordinary sounds extremely unpleasant for someone with hyperacusis, but that is definitely not the same as saying they are dangerous.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
    9. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      I didn't my say it was dangerous, I honestly don't know. I'm just saying that if you want 100% protection don't rely on ear plugs, there are other things to consider like internal bone conducted noise (this is a fact). Nothing I have stated is unconventional, I have posted couple of links now, if you don't buy it, fine.

      Maybe you could post something that someone else has stated besides yourself, this is what I have done, this way it's not just me talking out my ass.

      Besides this, you don't know what is dangerous for someone with hyperacussis nor do I, although I'm sure you have your opinions based on what you haven't read.

      Ps- if you consider this scary, maybe you are the one with "anxious thoughts". Just sayin
       
    10. SoulStation
      No Mood

      SoulStation Member Ambassador Team Tech

      Location:
      New York
      Tinnitus Since:
      2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise / Possible Medication
      I have discussed bone conduction with others here and I believe I heard many say there doctors say the the tissue in your head provides up 40 db of natural attenuation.
       
    11. SoulStation
      No Mood

      SoulStation Member Ambassador Team Tech

      Location:
      New York
      Tinnitus Since:
      2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise / Possible Medication
      Here is one of the posts.
       
    12. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      I would think so as the sound has to travel through bone to the ear, there has to be some resistance there. It's the internal noise that can't escape that chamber in the ear cannal (while they are blocked) that creates a amplified booming that is directly fired back into the ear canal at the ear drum. For me this gets loud enough to cause pain and discomfort. I have never experienced this via external noise vibrations (although apparently can occur) but only from jaring my body somehow, speaking, and chewing crunchy foods with my ears plugged. It would be nice to know how loud this actually is as it stresses my ears more than anything else. Hammering around on the tennis court with ear plugs in seems to be a complete waste of time, the internal noise is louder than my racket hitting the ball(measured at 75-85bd). I actually quit wearing ear protection while playing for this reason. I have read that the best way to get around this affect is to make sure ear plugs are inserted very deeply, this reduces the size of the chamber (space between the ear drum and the ear plug) and can help reduce the occlusion effect. Also some manufactures are putting tiny vents in to combat this problem as well. I don't know, for me it's a real issue as I play a lot of sports, they are tons are internal jarring noises that are quite obviously amplified with plugs in. I have also read that custom ear plugs fit deeper, I guess I need to try that.
       
    13. JTP
      No Mood

      JTP Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Finland
      Tinnitus Since:
      5/2013
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Shit happens
      Okay, point taken. Have you tried to use noise cancelling headphones instead of earplugs? There should be no amplification of bone conducted sounds with them. At least not to same degree.
       
    14. dan
      Chatty

      dan Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      06/2011
      You cant wear NC over the earheadrphones outside due to wind buffing against the external microphone and making a nasty piercing noise. Another option is the Bose in-ear phones and you can wear a bandana around your ears...could work.
       
    15. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      I don't think it's really that reasonable to be discussing "less damaging" alternatives to earplugs when there isn't actually any evidence that earplugs are damaging.

      Here's a study which concluded that the effect was only a 10db increase:
      http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14992020701545880

      If we're discussing "ear damage from earplug related occlusion", then we are discussing a "phenomenon" which has never been observed or measured, and which is not even suggested as a reasonable idea by any of the extensive research into audiometry and bone conduction that's out there.

      I'd say this is pretty similar to talking about whether or not tinfoil hats are adequate protection from chemtrails. I'm sorry if that sounds snarky, but I'm feeling a little snarky, because I think this is a little silly.

      To dial this back to the original posts here, the title of this thread is "Occulsion effect, ear plugs pointless in social situations". I am going to stick my neck out and say that ear plugs are not pointless in social situations, and that there's no reason at all to believe that wearing earplugs in social situations will do anything to you long-term besides prevent you from hurting your ears if you're exposed to sustained noise in the 80-100 db range.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
    16. SoulStation
      No Mood

      SoulStation Member Ambassador Team Tech

      Location:
      New York
      Tinnitus Since:
      2012
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise / Possible Medication
      That's part of why I like musicians plugs-they're chambered so they reduce the effect.
       
    17. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      You are always snarky, I expect it from you.

      Anyway, yes it's been measured and studies have been conducted. I can post them but I'm sure you won't read them.

      Instead of rambling on about how you haven't read this, this is scary, this is some sort of conspiracy....Chem trails, tin hats blah blah blah. Maybe do a little reaseach and quit being so paranoid man.

      This is a casual chat about ear plugs!!! I mean really!!!! chill!!
       
    18. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      If you have data or research, by all means, post it. I would love to read it, because I could not find anything like that myself.
       
    19. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      As you can see this patients own voice was measured at almost 110db between 100-500hz with a sealed ear mould. To note as well, he was not yelling, only just speaking-saying eeee for test purposes. Is this a dangerous sound level for someone with a already damaged auditory system? Yeah I would think so. At the very least it it should be of some concern to many here. Or let me guess? Low frequecy noise at 110db can't damage the ear? Well, I can post more links if you like. I can only guess how loud shouting all night at the bar with a sealed ear would be! I will post the entire paper below as well. Take a read! In the meantime I am going to go make sure my tin foil hat still fits.

      image.jpg

      http://www.etymotic.com/media/publications/erl-0088-1988.pdf
       
    20. Very interesting thread.

      I wonder about those who have PET.
       
    21. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      This is interesting. I read through the entire paper, as well as the section you reposted. I don't take it as a reason to think that that wearing earplugs in usual settings and talking at a usual level can cause hearing damage, though. The author makes several implications that this person has an unusual physiology, and is not suitable for conventional hearing aids as a result. But, be that as it may, even in this one case I don't think it necessarily means that his hearing would have been damaged; they only conclude that he's not a candidate for occlusive aids (which clearly many people do use without problem).

      I guess for me, the much larger number of people who report resuming normal activities with earplugs and not having worsening HL/T over a period of years/decades, is a lot more convincing than a single case report... especially when that report doesn't actually address the issue of damage.

      Everyone has to make their own decisions about these things, for sure. No matter what we do, our hearing will degrade over time, because you lose ~1.5% of your cilia annually to general attrition and aging. So, people should definitely assume whatever level of risk they are comfortable with, nothing is ever completely safe.
       
    22. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      Sure man. Haha. According to you: first my own experience was invalid, and then there were no studies, now the study that I post is flawed. You are good at blocking information and believing what you like. Whatever works for you.
       
    23. linearb
      Psychedelic

      linearb Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      East Coast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      1998
      that's not what I meant by a study. We're talking about whether the occlusion effect from earplugs can cause damage, right? The thing you posted does not make any attempt to address that. They do indicate that they measured a 110db spl from speech. They also indicate that this was an unusual finding.

      I am sorry if I offended you; I did not mean to imply that your experience was invalid, it's not and I'm not disputing that earplugs/molds/whatever can be extremely unpleasant, and make ordinary sounds extremely unpleasant.
       
    24. RichardRR
      Tired

      RichardRR Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2011
      So I have been reading some posts on here about the "Occlusion Effect," which is the echoing noise you hear when you talk, chew, jump around etc., with ear plugs in. Since the sounds that can't escape from your ear canal are being bounced back into the eardrum, can this cause even more damage than protection?

      I have very mild high frequency hearing loss in my right ear, normal hearing in the left. I wear ear plugs at work when I am vacuuming ( I am a janitor) and sometimes when I drive the work van because of the clanking in the back. Sometimes I hit the earplug with my hand or something and it causes a loud noise, and this too worries me. I guess I just feel that earplugs might be a double edged sword.
       
    25. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      Where is it indicated that this was an unusual finding?

      This is not unusual, it is very common. This is why earplug and hearing aid manufacturers are trying to solve this problem. I can post another 50 links if you would like? Would this satisfy? Draw your own conclusions, but 110db presure level can be dangerous. Again, this person was not raising his voice, it is not hard to imagine even if he had an unusually loud voice that if the average person were to yell or even raise their voice they could easily reach this presure level. Just use common sense here.
       
    26. RichardRR
      Tired

      RichardRR Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2011
      Thanks for putting my post into a thread the consists of two people arguing back and forth, mods.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
    27. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      Oh you don't find my posts relevant? What do you expect here? This is a open forum were people post about the topic at hand. If you don't find what I posted informative and off topic, let me know personally. From what I see here, I have added some valuable information, posted some good links, If I were you I would be greatful to the people who added to your original post and quit complaining.

      Even though I don't see eye to eye with @linearb he has also made efforts here to educate YOU! And if you don't like your threads being moved around, don't post new threads when a topic is already underway. And if you don't like back and forth about confusing subjects, don't post about them!! It's that easy bud.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
    28. RichardRR
      Tired

      RichardRR Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      10/2011
      And I have read all of your guys' posts, I just assumed that if I posted here you two wouldn't notice and would continue to talk amongst yourselves. I just wanted a chance to be able to converse about the topic without being drowned out by a previous discussion. Sorry for the confusion, bud.
       
    29. RichL
      Inspired

      RichL Member Benefactor

      Location:
      Palmerston North NZ
      Tinnitus Since:
      1990
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic trauma
      From what I have read it is by no means a common occurrence and is only prevalent with hearing aid users which leads me to my reasoning that foam ear plugs do not produce this problem.

      From Wiki.....
      1. The occlusion effect occurs when an object fills the outer portion of a person's ear canal, and that person perceives "hollow" or "booming" echo-like sounds of their own voice. It is caused by bone-conducted sound vibrations reverberating off the object filling the ear canal.
      From my own experience.
      I have worn earplugs for 25 years so consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on foam ear plugs, my brand of choice is classic, pictured here...
      Earplugs.jpg


      For 18 of my Tinnitus years I wore foam ear plugs 24/7 and I know that when I insert them, my voice immediately is quieter, this is my way of finding out that I have inserted them properly, I will talk to myself several times and know from the low level of my voice that they are in properly, I have never experienced occlusion with foam ear plugs, but I have experienced this with plastic molded ear plugs which leads me to the conclusion that it is not a phenomenon that occurs with foam ear plugs!

      If this did, then I am quite sure over 25 years of so called 110db hitting my ear drum then I would have significant hearing loss.
      110 db is enough to cause hearing loss, eg Train passing close by, drill press or a rock concert!

      As my audio gram shows, I have reasonably good hearing for my age!
       

      Attached Files:

      • Informative Informative x 1
    30. Telis

      Telis Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      Calgary
      Tinnitus Since:
      11/2013
      Well, I experience it in a huge way. Maybe I don't have the plugs inserted deep enough.
       

Share This Page

Loading...
If you have ringing ears then you've come to the right place. We are a friendly tinnitus support board, dedicated to helping you discuss and understand what tinnitus treatments may work for you.