Being in the audio industry it’s pretty safe to say our ears are our most prized possessions but even if you think you know how to clean and protect your ears from the endless thrashing they get from day-to-day life there are avenues through which day-to-day-life can indirectly and directly damage your ears without you even realising its happening untill it’s too late , like it is with most ear problems, they only get checked out once you are actually in any sort of discomfort which is probably not a good habit.
First off ear wax has a positive purpose and it is to safeguard the eardrum and if you try and clean it all out yourself you might end up causing more harm than good by creating a wax plug that will sit right up against the ears membrane and could cause tinnitus or infection, if you feel you have excess earwax (serumin) in your ear you can wash the outside of your ear with a washcloth but don’t stick anything in your ears let a physician do a proper cleaning if you feel it is necessary. You might also know that acoustic trauma is one of the leading causes of hearing loss and we live in an age when acoustical trauma, injury from sound, is around every corner, and we often don’t even realize the potential for harm. It begins early in life. Studies have shown that as many as 60 percent of students entering college already have some degree of hearing loss. Much of that may be due to what’s come to be commonly called noise pollution. The sounds of traffic, power tools, engines and lawn mowers to name a few types of noise pollution. The vast assault our ears face on a day-to-day basis besides the rigmarole we put them through as audio engineers could have a detrimental effect on our hearing ability and accuracy including the possible onset of Tinnitus.
Tinnitus Definition : A sound in one ear or both ears, such as buzzing, ringing, or whistling, occurring without an external stimulus and usually caused by a specific condition, such as an ear infection, the use of certain drugs, a blocked auditory tube or canal, or a head injury.
The dreaded medical term for the ringing in your ears that we as engineers fear, but what causes tinnitus? Well this list is surprisingly long and contains some obvious culprits and then some not so obvious culprits. One of these culprits is of course exposure to excessive levels of sound pressure (120 dBSPL+) awell as explosions and birth defects are known causes but one not so know is the effect the amount of salt in your diet has, or the additives in caffeine and tobacco products and over 200 pharmaceuticals along with high blood pressure these all have the potential to either cause or worsen the condition. This becomes very worrying when you realise your standard headache tablet if chronically abused can cause tinnitus. Over 250 million people worldwide suffer from tinnitus and here are some less well known causes and triggers of tinnitus most importantly though … if it feels like the volume is too loud it probably is.
Causes Of Tinnitus
- Certain types of tumours
- Wax build-up
- Jaw misalignment
- Cardiovascular disease
- Sinus Infection
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Iron Deficiency
- 5-MeO-AMT otherwise known as alpha-O or Moxy (and other psychedelic drugs)
- Mercury or lead poisoning
- Depression or anxiety
To help protect your ear from some of these effects and the main culprit of hearing loss, exposure to excessive dBSPL, I recommend you grab yourself a set of earplugs and ACTUALLY USE them. Ive seen so many people who claim to be very protective of their hearing but you will never see them using earplugs, mixing at appropriate levels or taking any breaks from critical listening, Thankfully the following information should help you to source some decent earplugs for yourselves. You can start by finding your nearest *Audiologist* contacting them and going in for a hearing test (it can’t hurt) then deciding what earplugs you need/want from their supplier, usually these *people*. Ear Plugs come in all shapes and sizes and if money is a problem a pair of standard foam earplugs is a start(average attenuation 18 dB) if you are getting serious follow the steps above to get a moulded plug that is suited to your attenuation (from 5 – 35dB) and frequency response needs, they will most likely last a lifetime.
If you thought tinnitus was a joking matter please takes some time to check out these surveys created and used to determine the number of tinnitus sufferers who commit suicide and or have attempted suicide.
*South Africa only*