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Thread: Ears ringing???

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    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    Ears ringing???

    So...my wife and I have noticed ringing ears since we've been cycling so much. Is it the wind blowing past our ears on the fast downhills? Is it something you have to get used to? Any ideas?

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    I've had the same problem for the past ten years, which is how long I have been riding. Don't know why.

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    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Tinnitus from hearing loss. It's normal for people in our age range. I started to notice long ago that driving long trips with the windows down caused it when I was young. Fast riding with the wind in our ears will also cause some hearing loss, even if temporary.
    Silver Eagle Pilot

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    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    It takes excessive sound pressure waves to damage your hearing which I doubt
    any cyclist on the planet can go fast enough to generate. However, age, meds,
    noise at work, home yard/garden machinery, gunfire/explosions, or any other
    concussive sound will damage your hearing to cause the ringing.

    Some folks are bothered by the constant wind rushing sound for which there are
    cyclist ear flaps to muffle this sound. If this is a sudden change then you need to
    discuss it with your family doctor ASAP to insure that blood pressure isn't the cause.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
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    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    The wind roaring in your ears is actually pretty loud, and at the very least can cause temporary hearing loss. If it bothers you, you can stuff some cotton in your ears, or get some cheapie foam plugs that still let in some sound. I used to see air diverters that go on your helmet straps, but I don't think they're available anymore.


    When you subject your ears to loud noises, downtime is important. Your ears need the quiet time to recover and heal.

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    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm a victim as well. Mine is a product of not wearing hearing protection while using loud equipment around the house and listening to music through ear buds while riding. To offset the wind noise to be able to hear the music the volume has to be pretty loud!!

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    sch
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    Wind noise in the ears is definitely 'loud', as anyone trying to converse with another rider knows. I have reasonably good hearing and will miss most of a conversation carried on by cyclists right in front of me when riding at 16-18mph or faster. Ear damage is cumulative and tinnitis is most commonly associated with loud noise exposure. Loud is relative: what is loud to a teen differs from what is loud at 35 which differs from what is loud at 55 and so on. Eventually the curve reverses and you have to be shouted to hear anything! I have ear plugs everywhere and use them in a lot of movies, ALL concerts, even symphony concerts and with almost all power tools. Even hand drills make a lot of racket if used for more than a few minutes. At work sewing up the chin of a screaming 3yr old can result in tinnitis exacerbations for hours, so ear plugs are put in routinely. Wind noise definitely falls into the category of
    loud and earplugs might be a good idea.

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    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
    Tinnitus from hearing loss. It's normal for people in our age range. I started to notice long ago that driving long trips with the windows down caused it when I was young. Fast riding with the wind in our ears will also cause some hearing loss, even if temporary.
    Actually, years ago I was taking an audiologist course, and the MD told us of a study that I have never been able to confirm about hearing loss in industrial society verses hearing acuity in African populations who have never been exposed to loud noise. The African elders, who were in their seventies, were able to hear (again this is unconfirmed) a pin drop on metal at 100 yards.

    Our society is so filled with noise hazards that we now associate hearing loss is a normal aging process, but apparently it may not be. You don't need to loose hearing from noise, but you have to be cogniscent of when you are being subjected to noise exposure. One of those exposures is no auto noise on the road when riding a bicycle. I sometimes do wear ear plugs when riding in traffic, because it is very noisy. I estimate it above 90 dBA (whenever you cannot carry out a conversation, the noise level is above 85-90 dBA).

    The current American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists TLV for noise starts at 86 dBA for 8 hours, and continues up the scale using a 3 dBA doubling rate. That means now that the exposure to 88 dBA is for 4 hours, and 91 dBA for 2 hours results in overexposure. Here, we're getting into an area where a bicyclist can become overexposed. At 94 dBA, the exposure is only for 1 hour. I'm getting a noise dosimeter soon for work, and will find out how exposures vary with traffic when I do (one of the many applications this dosimeter will have, most of them on-the-job stuff).

    Tinnitis is a different animal, and can be associated with noise exposure, or other things. It apparently originates from nerves in the inner ear, but apparently can also be caused or exhasperated by excessive wax buildup within the ear canal.

    Quote Originally Posted by sch
    Wind noise in the ears is definitely 'loud', as anyone trying to converse with another rider knows. I have reasonably good hearing and will miss most of a conversation carried on by cyclists right in front of me when riding at 16-18mph or faster. Ear damage is cumulative and tinnitis is most commonly associated with loud noise exposure. Loud is relative: what is loud to a teen differs from what is loud at 35 which differs from what is loud at 55 and so on. Eventually the curve reverses and you have to be shouted to hear anything! I have ear plugs everywhere and use them in a lot of movies, ALL concerts, even symphony concerts and with almost all power tools. Even hand drills make a lot of racket if used for more than a few minutes. At work sewing up the chin of a screaming 3yr old can result in tinnitis exacerbations for hours, so ear plugs are put in routinely. Wind noise definitely falls into the category of
    loud and earplugs might be a good idea.
    I also keep a pair of ear plugs on my person while I'm going around doing things. When I enter a noisy environment, I pull them out and put them in. I take it that sch is an MD, and those screaming kids can be quite loud. I pulled out my ear plugs in church when the pastor brought in a youth band, and I noticed that they had four-foot high speakers set up in the sanctuary. I was the only one to wear ear protection.

    I've been known to use the darndest things--as a smokejumper years ago I used saliva-wetted cigarette butts (new ones bumbed off another guy) when in a turbo-prop plane without sound insulation. In Vietnam, one of my buddies used two 38 caliber bullets from his belt when no wax ear plugs could be found (this is where my tinnitus comes from--firing miniguns in Super Jolly Green Giant rescue helicoters). Sometimes, you have to improvise.

    Today, as an industrial hygienist, I am acutely aware excessive noise, and find that I have little tolerance for it. While bicycling, I find that my hearing for normal things is somewhat better with ear protection in than with it out, and the tinnitus tends to go down too. If you think about it, a car with a wonderful sterio system in it cannot function unless the driver and other occupants are protected from road noise. So cars are built as sound-reducing booths, to which the occupants can add sound (sometimes way too much, in the form of various types of music). So if a driver askes me how I can function with ear plugs inserted, I ask back how he can function with his/her windows rolled up--same difference. But road noise can be really load too, and so for extensive riding in traffic, I would recommend wearing ear plugs. They don't cut all noise, but significantly reduce harmful, high frequency sound.

    John
    John Ratliff

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    I have had Tinnitus since my 20s.
    I got it from listening to too much
    of the Rolling Stones and such as
    a youth with the volume too loud.

    That, and one particular painfull
    round of Trap Shooting against
    a Concrete Block Wall when I
    was in college. I lost my hearing
    for 2 days on that one.

    So now I have to turn my mp3 player
    up extra loud to hear the same music
    as I ride down the street on my bents. :O)
    Ned Goudy, Glendora, CA USA
    Lightning Thunderbolt, Easy Racer EZ1, Rhoades Car
    http://www.rhoadescar.com/4w1p-j.jpg

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    sch
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    Ned: Unfortunately ear phones may be contributing to hearing loss, there is some preliminary info that suggests that listening to music through ear phones or ear buds is damaging over time. I have tinnitis all the time and mostly just ignore it but occasionally it flares up and gets annoying for a few hours, hence my keeping ear plugs available everywhere I am. Haven't started using them on the bike yet though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by John C. Ratliff
    Actually, years ago I was taking an audiologist course, and the MD told us of a study that I have never been able to confirm about hearing loss in industrial society verses hearing acuity in African populations who have never been exposed to loud noise. The African elders, who were in their seventies, were able to hear (again this is unconfirmed) a pin drop on metal at 100 yards

    I like a challenge.

    Comparisons between the median hearing threshold levels for an unscreened black nonindustrial noise exposed population (NINEP) and four presbycusis data bases.

    Driscoll DP, Royster LH.

    Am Ind Hyg Assoc J. 1984 Sep;45(9):577-93.


    The median hearing threshold level (HTL) data representing an unscreened black nonindustrial noise exposed population (NINEP) are compared to the median HTL data of three previously established presbycusis data bases by Hinchcliffe, Corso, and Rosen, and the data base developed by Robinson and Sutton. The data bases are all normalized relative to age 18. Comparisons are made between the black NINEP and the presbycusis data base HTLs for different sex and age groupings. The unscreened black NINEP exhibits median HTLs similar to those of the presbycusis data bases for ages less than approximately 35-45 years. However, for age groupings greater than 35-45 years, the median HTLs of the black NINEP are generally lower (better hearing) than those of the referenced presbycusis data bases even though this data base exhibited significant nonindustrial noise exposures, and medical and pathological problems which were not screened out of the population.

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    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    I just looked it up in the AIHA website (I am a member), and there is an even older study along the same lines by some of the same principals:

    Age effect hearing levels for a black nonindustrial noise exposed population (ninep)

    L. H. ROYSTER A1, D. P. DRISCOLL A1, W. G. THOMAS A2, J. D. ROYSTER A3

    A1 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27650
    A2 Hearing and Speech Center, Memorial Hospital, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514
    A3 Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina 27650

    Abstract:


    A nonindustrial noise exposed population (NINEP) that describes the age effects for a black male and female population has been established. The mean hearing threshold levels for the black NINEP are significantly lower (better hearing) than the previously established mean HTLs for a white NINEP when compared by sex. The availability of the black NINEP now makes it possible to more accurately evaluate a typical industrial noise exposed population (INEP).
    Thanks, Cooker, for showing me what I should have already seen

    John
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    A month ago I had a hearing test and found that I've lost a fair amount of high frequency sensitivity in my right ear. I knew I had lost some hearing in general, but I hadn't noticed any problems within a specific range. A week later, a cricket made it into the apartment. It was keeping me awake and of course I couldn't find the bugger. I happened to roll over to my left side (I'm a right sider) and the cricket "shut up". It wasn't loud enough for my right ear to pick up. I fashioned an ear plug, stuck it in my left ear and had no more problem sleeping. The hearing isn't going to come back on its own so I might as well make it work to my advantage when I can.
    Last edited by Hal Hardy; 08-29-06 at 08:02 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sch
    Wind noise in the ears is definitely 'loud', as anyone trying to converse with another rider knows. I have reasonably good hearing and will miss most of a conversation carried on by cyclists right in front of me when riding at 16-18mph or faster. Ear damage is cumulative and tinnitis is most commonly associated with loud noise exposure. Loud is relative: what is loud to a teen differs from what is loud at 35 which differs from what is loud at 55 and so on. Eventually the curve reverses and you have to be shouted to hear anything! I have ear plugs everywhere and use them in a lot of movies, ALL concerts, even symphony concerts and with almost all power tools. Even hand drills make a lot of racket if used for more than a few minutes. At work sewing up the chin of a screaming 3yr old can result in tinnitis exacerbations for hours, so ear plugs are put in routinely. Wind noise definitely falls into the category of
    loud and earplugs might be a good idea.
    Like others in this thread, I am very sensitive to noise and very protective of my hearing. I also carry ear plugs everywhere, and I believe that loudness is not relative to age. 90 db is 90 db no matter how old (or young) your ears are. I treat my ears as though any hearing loss will be permanent as I believe this to be true except when hearing loss is caused by factors other than nerve damage (such as temporary hearing loss due to infections that reverses itself as the infection clears up). Obviously, some infections can also cause permanent damage to ones hearing - that's another story.

    I doubt that most of us go fast enough that we are causing hearing damage - although I won't say it isn't possible, and it is definitely safer to err on the side of caution. You cannot reverse hearing loss that results from overexposure to noise.

    I am absolutely amazed at how many folks subject themselves to noise or loud music and don't realize the damage they are doing to their ears. I love music - am a musician by trade. I would never play or sing in a situation that subjects me to loud noise (or loud instruments/voices) without wearing hearing protections. Can you imagine Placido Domingo or Pavarotti singing a love song as they gaze warmly into the eyes of the leading lady? Their voices are strong enough to carry to the back row of the Met and still be heard. How loud must that be for her? It's loud, I assure you.

    Plenty of orchestra players also wear hearing protection.

    The difference between classical concerts and rock concerts is that classical (most of the time) is not electronically amplified and is usually set in auditoria large enough so that the audience is not subjected to ear damaging volumes. That is general, although not always true.

    I'm a bit off topic, here, so I apologize.

    I do wear ear plugs if I'm riding in a noisy area. Surprisingly, I've ridden in NYC on weekends when I didn't find the streets noisy at all. I, personally, am not too concerned with wind noise - and, so far, my hearing is still sharp (based on the test I took a year ago). I only hear ringing if I go into a sound proof room, and can still hear at the extremes of the human range.

    Again, my advice would be to wear ear plugs in any situation where you believe the noise level may be of danger - including cycling.

    Great thread. Great comments all.

    Caruso

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    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Since my last post above, I've been more dilligent about wearing my ear plugs while riding. I am happy to report a noticable decrease in the tinnitus that I have (from USAF, and sitting in helicopters below two turbojet engines without soundproofing, and firing miniguns). I've also read both the studies noted above, and will give a more detailed report later.

    John
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    Senior Member dauphin's Avatar
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    What?

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    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    I would guess everyone remembers their first "ear ringing" episode differnently. And of course in many cases it is a result of sustaining a long period of loud noise.

    Off hand, I'd say two or three different things contibute to ear ringing. Changes in air pressure, noise and blood/fluid pressure changes internally.

    Ear riniging can be annoying, and no doubt a bonified "over 50" topic, but mostly for reasons of blood pressure and the use of NSAIDs, not hearing loss or loud noises.

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    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Noise exposure, bicyclists, and tinnitus

    I have been studying for a Certified Industrial Hygienist exam (missed passing by about 6 questions in May 2006), and part of that study concerns occupational noise exposure. That is why I was so interested in the two studies shown. I have just started (again) a chapter on occupational noise, and ran across this tidbit of information:

    The general rule of thumb is that when distance doubles from a point source of noise, subtract 6 dB from original source, and when distance is halved, add 6 dB. This does not work when distances are not divisible or a multiple of 2...
    Quantitative Industrial Hygiene, Jack Caravanos, DrPH, CIH, ACGIH, 5th Printing, 1991
    To me, that means that if I ride in a bike lane, where the reading is 90 dBA and I'm 4 feet away from the traffic, if I move to a sidewalk that is 8 feet away, the dBA reading will be ~ 82 dBA. I sometimes have done that on my commute to work, as the last little bit has both a bike lane and a side walk near it, with no one in the sidewalk. The difference in noise levels is noticable.

    Concerning tinnitus, that ringing in the ears can be caused by very loud noises, or constant load noise, or many different combinations. I have read that no one really knows the "cause" of tinnitus. Here is one website that has some interesting information:

    http://www.ata.org/

    John
    John Ratliff

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    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Driscoll and Royster's Paper

    I'd like to share this table from the study quoted above. It shows different studies compiled into one table. The Rosen graph is a graph of the African population who had never been exposed to excessive noise. The Black NINEP (Non-Industrial Noise Exposed Population) showed less hearing loss at this frequency (3 kHz or 3000 Hz) than the other populations studied. This is pretty conclusive information that the more exposure to noise over a lifetime, the more hearing loss. Also, with greater exposure to noise, there will be more tinnitus (ringing in the ears) from extremely loud noises. Here's the source:

    Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J. 45(9): 577-593 (1984)
    Driscoll, Dennis P., and Larry H. Royster, Comparisons Between the Median Hearing Threshold Levels for an Unscreened Black Nonindustrial Noise Exposed Population (NINEP) and Four Presbycusis Data Bases
    I'll add more later.

    John
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