Tag Archive: Hyperacusis Research Limited

One person can make a difference

Photo credit: Ave Calvar Martinez from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

I once attended a lecture where the speaker asked the audience, “Can one person make a difference?” He cited examples of Mahatma Gandhi, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. Peering into the darkened auditorium, he continued, “I don’t see any of them in the audience today. But if you have ever tried to sleep on a summer night while one mosquito buzzes around your head, you know that one tiny little thing can make a difference. If you want to change things, you need to be like that mosquito.”

I didn’t think about that lecture for many years, but when I became a noise activist a Google search for “safe noise level” invariably had the occupationally-derived 85 decibel sound level as the most common search result.

After I published an editorial in the American Journal of Public Health about 70 decibels daily exposure being the only evidence-based sound level to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, that changed. Now a Google search shows many links to that article or publications citing it, including one from Hyperacusis Research with a picture of me and Bryan. It turned out that the speaker was right, one person could make a difference.

But I think what Bryan Pollard has accomplished proves that point even better than anything I have accomplished.

As Bryan writes in the Summer 2020 issue of Hearing Health magazine, the publication of Hearing Health Foundation, he developed hyperacusis some years ago after tree trimmers took down a large tree extending over his house and then used a noisy wood chipper to pulverize the entire tree, thick trunk included. Hyperacusis is a condition that causes a person to be unable to tolerate everyday noise levels without discomfort or pain. I also have hyperacusis, which developed after a one-time exposure to loud noise in a restaurant at a New Year’s Eve party in 2007.

When Bryan found that not much was known about hyperacusis, he started Hyperacusis Research, Ltd. to raise funds to support research into this poorly understood condition. Through his efforts, including organizing a dinner of interested researchers at the annual Association for Research in Otolaryngology meeting, the ENT research community has made great progress in understanding what Bryan has dubbed “noise-induced pain.”

Bryan partnered with Hearing Health Foundation, and then with many others, so his success hasn’t been a solo effort, but it’s clear that nothing would have happened with hyperacusis if Bryan hadn’t taken the initiative to try to do something.

In this summer of our discontent, when demonstrations fill the streets in American cities and cities around the world, it’s clear that public expressions of discontent can make a difference.

If enough individuals make noise about noise, maybe the world can become a quieter, healthier, more peaceful place, too.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

Noise causes most hyperacusis, tinnitus, and hearing loss, so

Why Is It “Uncool” To Protect Your Hearing?

The author of the linked piece was disturbed by a tweet from “a well known rock magazine, Kerrang,” and responded, as follows:

Kerrang-Tweet-1024x762

Kerrang! Magazine did not respond to Restored Hearing’s tweet, but people in the hearing community did, which led to an interesting and thoughtful discussion about why hearing injuries are treated so dismissively when no one (presumably) would be openly snarky about injuries to sight.  After all, there is no effective cure or treatment for most hearing injuries, the consequences of which are more significant than having to ask someone to speak up.  Rather, hearing injuries can dramatically affect one’s quality of life.  As Bryan Pollard, president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, Inc., stated:

‘Hyperacusis,’ the evil spawn of tinnitus, is a word you do not want in your vocabulary or your medical history. It means that noise = pain. All it takes is one loud night out to spark a lifetime of regret.

In the end, the reason for the flippancy is a lack of education.  How many people even heard of hyperacusis or tinnitus or know what they are until and unless they or someone they know is diagnosed?  That most hyperacusis and tinnitus is noise induced, thus preventable, means we need to confront the Kerrangs of the world and explain to them that today’s snarky tweet may lead to tomorrow’s lingering regret.

Thanks to Bryan Pollard for the link.  Bryan is the founder and president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatments.

A chilling reminder that exposure to loud noise can lead to more than hearing loss

David Sikorski, senior editor at Earmilk, an online music publication, has written a must read piece for anyone who loves to listen to live music: Tinnitus, Suicides & Earplugs: Don’t be an idiot.  Sikorski states that as senior editor he has “issued a full mandatory requirement for any of our writers to wear earplugs when attending/reviewing any concert or festival on our behalf.”  Why?  Here’s his answer:

Over 700 million people around the world suffer from some form of Tinnitus or ringing in the ears. This recent flood of self-induced hearing damage from oversized studio headphones, grandiose speaker systems and silly notions carried over from ill-advised past generations – equating decibel levels to enjoyment – have created a music industry epidemic.

When it happens, it just happens. You’ll leave the vibrating walls of the after hours spot, that divey “rock n’ roll night club” or even after maxing the sub in your car to peep Slime Season 3. Suddenly, the ringing in your ear, that used to be temporary isn’t.

And yes, though rare, for some people plagued with tinnitus the “ringing in their ears becomes [so] unbearable, that death becomes the only relief.”

So how do you balance your love of live music with the need to protect your hearing?  Sikorski suggests earplugs.  We would add that musicians and music venues need to consider what they can do to stop the permanent damage they are inflicting on fans.

Thanks to Hyperacusis Research Limited for the link.  Hyperacusis Research Limited is a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatment.

You’ve been told that you should wear ear plugs to concerts, now you will know exactly why:

Why you should wear earplugs to concerts.  And the reason is that a research study has proven that ear plug use protects hearing:

[R]esearchers from the Netherlands randomly assigned 51 people, with an average age of 27, attending an outdoor music festival in Amsterdam into two groups: one in which the participants wore ear plugs and another where they did not. The subjects, who were advised to avoid excessive use of alcohol or drugs, had their hearing evaluated right before and immediately after the four-and-a-half hour festival.

* * *

The study found that only 8 percent of people who wore earplugs experienced hearing loss following this exposure, compared with 42 percent of those in the unprotected group. Additionally, fewer participants wearing earplugs felt a ringing in their ears — a condition known as tinnitus — following the festival, compared to those who did not wear earplugs (12 percent versus 40 percent).

The findings are important, the authors say, as repeated instances of loud music exposure can add up to longterm damage.

Hearing damage is cumulative.  Each exposure to loud noise that results in “temporary” hearing loss or ringing in one’s ears may seem limited in time, but each exposure builds on the last and can lead to permanent and irreversible hearing loss.  You only have one set of ears and science has not discovered how to regrow, rejuvenate, or replace the stereocilia that allow you to hear.  Next time you head to a concert or music festival, get a pair of ear plugs and protect your hearing.

NOTE: The statement in the article that “85 dBA is considered the cut off between safe and potentially unsafe loudness levels” is not correct when applied to the general public.  In February 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) posted an article on its Science Blog that stated that the 85 dBA noise exposure limit was intended as a limit for occupational noise exposure and not a safe exposure limit for the public at large.  See, NIOSH Science Blog clarifies difference between occupational and general noise exposure limits.

Thanks to Hyperacusis Research Limited for the link.  Hyperacusis Research Limited is a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatment.

Ear buds are killing your ears

The Chicago Tribune published a very informative article on How earbuds can wreck your hearing (especially for young people).  The article notes that:

A 2015 World Health Organization report found that nearly 50 percent of teens and young adults ages 12-35 are exposed to unsafe levels of sound from their personal music players. A 2010 Journal of the American Medical Association analysis found a significant increase in young people with hearing loss from three decades ago.

It’s well worth a read, particularly for the advice provided on how to know when sound is too loud and what you can do to limit harmful exposure.

Thanks to Bryan Pollard for the link.  Bryan is the founder and president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the goal of developing effective treatments.

How a professional cellist learned to live with a career-ending ear injury:

The Atlantic has posted a fascinating aritcle by Janet Horvath, the former principal cello for the Minneapolis Orchestra who suffered an acoustic-shock injury to her left ear during a concert that led to a severe case of hyperacusis.  In “A musician afraid of sound,” Horvath writes that the placement of a speaker two feet from her ear left her unable to tolerate noise, including music.  The article allows those unfamiliar with hyperacusis to understand the devastation it can cause, particularly when the injury happens to someone for whom music was both a career and passion.  Fortunately, after being fitted “with modified hearing aids that…lower[ed] the volume of sound without altering its clarity,” followed by months of desensitization therapy, Horvath was to pick up her cello two years after her injury and play, but in the end she accepts that she would never be an orchestral musician again.

It’s gratifying to see a piece about hyperacusis in a mainstream publication, particularly since so few people are aware that it exists.  One hopes that pieces like this one, coupled with recent newpaper articles addressing restaurant noise, help to raise awareness about the noise pollution’s impact on health.

Thanks to Bryan Pollard for the link.  Bryan is the founder and president of Hyperacusis Research Limited, a non-profit charity dedicated to funding research on what causes hyperacusis with the the goal of developing effective treatments.