Wearing Earplugs and Talking — The Occlusion Effect?

Discussion in 'Support' started by Nicholas2255, Sep 28, 2019.

    1. Nicholas2255

      Nicholas2255 Member

      Location:
      Australia
      Tinnitus Since:
      07/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Long history of noise or a bad cold
      Hi,

      Sorry if this is already covered, I couldn't find any other questions similar to what I'm experiencing.

      My general question is at the bottom of this wall of text!

      Does anyone know much about wearing earplugs and then having general conversations or just talking in general while wearing them.

      I work in a loud environment, warehousing and whatnot where there are very sudden loud sharp sounds that have always bothered me, horns and pallets etc. In other workplaces, I could just wear foam earplugs and work away, but we use a voice picking system where you have to speak into a headset in order to work. So today I wore a foam earplug in one ear, and then my musicians plug (-15 dB) in my ear which is under my headset and after about an hour I realised that my voice was very loud inside my head and I wonder if this is just as bad as any other type of noise exposure for my ears.

      The only outcome from today was that I started getting popping/crackling in my ear after about an hour whenever I would speak, and not from any other external sound. I was sweating a lot at the time, and I only had about 1-2 hours of sleep so maybe that had something to do with it also.

      This type of popping/crackling has always happened to me long before I developed a ringing and is usually from some type of loud exposure or if I was very tired because for some reason my ears are always extra sensitive if I did not get any sleep. This always goes away after I fall asleep or relax for a few hours. I have read that it's supposedly related to the eustachian tubes, and since my ringing started I cannot pop my right ear at all which just happens to be the side that rings.



      Anyway, sorry to ramble on about my day but my question is


      Do you know much about talking when wearing earplugs?
      Is it a bad idea due to the occlusion effect which makes your own voice sound much louder than if you were not wearing them?

      Nicholas
       
      • Good Question Good Question x 2
    2. Mister Muso
      Busy

      Mister Muso Member

      Location:
      Scotland
      Tinnitus Since:
      2007 / April 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud music
      I found after one afternoon when I was doing a lot of talking for a sustained period of time, with earplugs all the way in, I got a spike in my tinnitus. I don't know for sure if it was my talking or other noise I was exposed to that weekend, but I remember thinking at the time that my own voice felt a bit loud.

      I guess if you are only doing a little bit of talking with gaps in between at your work, you may be OK. If you've only experienced the fluttering in your ears once or twice, I would try to reduce the volume or frequency of your voice if possible. If it continues then try speaking with your boss to see if he's sympathetic and whether any changes can be made to your working conditions.
       
    3. GregCA
      Jaded

      GregCA Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Otosclerosis
      Apparently our bodies have a way to put our ears in "protection mode" when we talk or scream, precisely so we wouldn't get an acoustic trauma. Like anything, I wouldn't poke the bear too much: while I wouldn't worry about talking with ear plugs, I would probably avoid screaming at the top of my lungs for too long.
       
      • Agree Agree x 2
    4. Digital Doc

      Digital Doc Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2018
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise induced
      Just talk with a normal volume with the earplugs in. If the voice cannot be picked up with the device, then you need a different method. Can't be expected to scream all day at work.
       
      • Helpful Helpful x 1
    5. Bartoli

      Bartoli Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2009,worsened 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise
      The occlusion effect happens when the ear can't "vent" the lower frequencies and it causes a buildup. If there's less air between the plug and the eardrum the effect isn't as big. According to some research with a dB probe, sounds can actually be louder by 20-30 dB and not just feel like it. I have this with my custom ear plugs but less so when I had newer and deeper impressions taken. Deeply inserted foam plugs are better for talking. Note how it's only certain letters. Try saying "o" and "e" with earplugs in and see if there's a noticeable difference in perceived volume. That's how you know.

      I don't think you would be able to damage your hearing unless you're shouting a lot, but occlusion's annoying for sure. My wife always tells me I speak too low when wearing earplugs.
       
      • Helpful Helpful x 1
    6. Bartoli

      Bartoli Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2009,worsened 2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise
      https://journals.lww.com/thehearing...fittings_and_the_hearing_aid_occlusion.8.aspx

      The hearing aids industry seems to be more aware of this problem.

      TL;DR : The occlusion effect with a shallow insertion (hearing aid) in the ear typically gives around 16 dB of amplification. Some individuals experience greater amplification with sounds of over 100 dB SPL in the lower frequencies, which is an amplification of 25-30 dB. It is most bothersome for people with no hearing loss in these frequencies. I believe that would mean most tinnitus sufferers.

      @Nicholas2255 A possible solution would be to have new custom plugs made, as deep as possible, or use foam plugs with deep insertion.
      However as I understand it, you need to be able to communicate for work. Could you hook up your own headphones to the communication system? I know there are ear muffs that perform double duty as headphones while keeping down environmental noise levels like the ones you encounter in the warehouse. (Is it Peltor?) That would also give you control over the volume of the communication so you could set it real low. I believe @Bill Bauer is an authority on ear muffs so maybe he could pitch in?
       
      • Like Like x 1
    7. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Nicholas2255

      Nicholas2255 Member

      Location:
      Australia
      Tinnitus Since:
      07/2019
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Long history of noise or a bad cold
      It's not a crazy loud work environment, just standard warehouses I guess but i'm just more concious of the louder sounds now. Things like forklifts and electric pallet jacks that have horns that beep way too loud.
      We use "vocollect" which is just like a basic tier headset so it doesn't cut out the outside sound a lot so that's why I wanted to use earplugs instead. My foam earplug was inserted pretty deep, but my musician custom plug is quite small, and I had to re-adjust it constantly due to the sweat and having it under the headset ear piece. The sound that comes through is also much lower than if I wasn't wearing ear plugs cause i've stopped using earplugs/headphones in general. I did this exact same set up a few weeks ago when I worked and it was not as bad as it was yesterday.

      I think it was the lack of sleep, and having a bit of a sore throat which made my voice a lot lower/deeper which caused my ear to start popping like crazy whenever I spoke, it's gone away now just like I knew it would but it did give me a fright and made me question if the bone conduction/occlusion effect is just as bad.
      My managers are really accomodating so I might just have to transfer to another warehouse where it is much much more quiet.

      The custom plug I was using on my right side that was popping is quite small, so maybe that explains why it was only affecting my right side because the foam earplug on my left side was extremely deep. I'm also having issues with my eustachian tube on my right side where I cannot pop that ear at all. So maybe it's all related.
       

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