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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Ear Damage

These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Hearing Damage [posted 8/14/98]
Question: I do aerobics and often find the volume level of the music uncomfortable. In order to place an official complaint to the manager, I would like to know at what decibel level music becomes damaging. How loud should the music be played for a one hour exercise class so as to not damage one's ears?

Answer: Damage to the hearing apparatus depends on the decibels as well as the length of time one is exposed. So, it is hard to give exact numbers, but industrial standards are less than 85 db for an 8 hour shift. Acute damage can occur above 95-100 db, especially with rapid onset (explosions, etc.). Your ears have the ability to protect themselves with gradual increases. Talk to the manager or get some ear protection.

Loss of hearing
Question: Loss of hearing in my left ear. Doctor has me on 6 -10 Mgs of Prednisone per day and 3 Tablets of Niacin -Sr 250mg per day. He told me that I could have had a Virus that damaged my hearing nerve or a small ear stroke. I have low blood pressure, 128/70 all my life . I am 69 years old and had open heart surgery on Oct 28th, 1996, and feel great. Do you think my hearing is gone in my left ear or is there still a possibility that I could get my hearing back. It happened all of a sudden over night, got up the next morning and it was gone. This happened Monday night 7/14/97. Saw Doctor 7/15/97.

Answer: This is a typical story of complete hearing loss. Sudden onset with complete loss. I agree with your treatment, but I don't expect any return of your hearing. We really don't know what causes this type of hearing loss, but it is common and usually irreversible.

Ear Damage
Question: I would like to know if there is something to do when the internal ear is damaged except for protecting them from loud noise. A doctor gave me 20 mg of Vastarel (trimedazine).

Answer: Once the inner ear is damaged there is not much you can do. This assumes the damage is to the nerve endings. Barotraums to the three small bones of the inner ear can occasionally be repaired. Hearing tests will determine if your loss is potentially repairable.

Question: Is it true that loud music does not damage your hearing because it is prolonged exposure to loud music that does?

Answer: Any noise above a certain decibel level will damage ones hearing. Sudden sharp noise above a level of about 105 to 110 will acutely damage hearing. Levels chronically above 90 to 95 will damage hearing over time. The absolute level necessary to damage hearing varies with the suddenness of onset, the time exposed, and some other factors which have not been discovered.

Auditory Nerve
Question:Can you give me some information on damage to the auditory nerve?

Answer: The auditory nerve is the most highly charged nerve in the human body. On average, about twice the electrical charge of other nerves. This seems to make it much more likely to sustain damage. Damage can occur in several ways. The most common-and easiest to prevent-is damage secondary to excessive noise. Many young people, rock musicians, and rock concert devotees will have major damage to their hearing from excessive noise levels. Even excessive noise from portable earphones and Walk-Man like players can produce this problem. Consequently, whenever you are around high noise levels-guns, amplifiers, etc. use extreme caution in protecting your ears. Neurotoxins of any type or diseases that affect nerves often effect the auditory nerve. Diabetes mellitus, B12 deficiency, and any inflammatory process can also effect this nerve. Occasioally, a local growth called an acoustic neuroma will effect the nerve. This occurs since the nerve enters the brain through a very tight passage and through a small hole in the calvarium. Any pressure here will damage the nerve-requiring surgery to repair.
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