Safe exposure to noise

Discussion in 'Dr. Stephen Nagler (MD)' started by 2131e, Oct 1, 2014.

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    1. 2131e

      2131e Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Dear Dr. Nagler,

      I had a question about safe exposure to noise. Trying to work out possible causes of my tinnitus, it seems to me that a possible culprit is a temporary hearing threshold change after exposure to loud noise... the ones I can think of corresponding to onset include listening to music on full blast for about 4 hours with headphones (I'd, being in a loud bar for about 5 hours, probably 85ish db, and regular gym classes where I've since discovered the music is about 88db for 45 min to an hour.

      I wanted to ask you what you think it is sensible to do to avoid future situations that might exacerbate the tinnitus. In particular, I'd be keen on keeping going to the gym classes if I could do it safely by wearing plugs. I'd even happily wear ear plugs AND ear muffs to keep going.

      Do you think exposure to 88db music, a few times a week for an hour is safe? If not do you think it would be safe with appropriate hearing protection?

      Finally, I just read that on for example the London underground, av db level is 88db rising to 118db on certain lines when trains arrive. Does this mean it would be unsafe to use the LU?

      Many thanks!
    2. Dr. Nagler

      Dr. Nagler Member Clinician Benefactor

      Atlanta, Georgia USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      Hi @2131e -

      I'm not sure how productive it is to try to work out possible causes of one's tinnitus ... because once you have eliminated the (very few) fixable causes of tinnitus and the (very very few) causes that might represent a threat to health, then the cause - whatever it might be - is to my way of thinking largely irrelevant in terms of what you choose to do or not do about your tinnitus and how it affects you.

      That little soapbox speech aside, your question about avoiding situations that might exacerbate your tinnitus merits careful consideration ...

      As you may have gathered from my various postings, I feel that it is next-to-impossible to successfully manage your life in terms of avoiding the kinds of things that might potentially aggravate your tinnitus. Such an approach almost by definition puts your tinnitus in the driver's seat. Rather, I like the idea of avoiding those things known to potentially cause permanent auditory damage. The idea here is that if your tinnitus is for whatever reason exacerbated by something that does not cause permanent auditory damage, then it can reasonably be expected to settle back down given a bit of time.

      Regarding noise exposure, which is the essence of your question, I use Dr. Jack Vernon's "rule of thumb" to minimize the chance of auditory damage and suggest that if you find yourself in an environment such that you must raise your own voice in order to be heard by a person standing next to you, then you should either leave or use ear protection. And that holds true for everybody else in the room!

      Specifically, in terms of gym classes with an 88dB noise level, according to OSHA (the US Occupational Health and Safety Administration) guidelines you should be OK. But if it were I, I'd use ear plugs. In the LU, I'd use plugs all the time.

      However, almost as importantly, I would avoid using ear protection unnecessarily. Your auditory system needs sound. It thrives on sound. It is nourished by sound. Do not deprive your auditory system of its "essential nutrients" by over-protecting.

      Hope this helps.

      Dr. Stephen Nagler
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