Preventing Hearing loss

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by Madaboutaudio, Sep 5, 2016.

  1. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    I'm answering from the dark side, where I live in the worst of both worlds. I need hearing aids for conversation, and even then I sometimes just don't get female voices, and... I have to stuff my ears with cotton wool for concerts. Quiet sounds I can't hear; loud sounds hurt.
    Some of that is rubbish, and some of it is completely true.

    The idea that you should buy expensive audio, because, hey, your ears-brain adjust and it's still worth it, is... moot. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. I would emphatically say, do not buy bad audio, because it will annoy the hell out of you much more than it might have done in better-hearing days! Weird. But true.

    The ear adjustment thing, as per that video, is over-exaggerated. If he had, say, High-frequency hearing loss, which is the common thing from ageing/loudness, let him try to compensate and hear conversation properly. No, you can't. First, someone takes away the differences between P, B, D, T, then the softer consonants meld into that mush, then you are earin omeiin wih ha liile meaning at all and then you don't even know someone is speaking to you. This is what happens to conversation: does he think music fares any better? No, it does not.

    But music contains so many frequencies and their harmonics, and we have memory, and we can continue to make something of it. Details are lost, and do not get compensated back in. Air is but a dream: never to be heard again. I can still hear a violin and know it is a violin. I can enjoy the melody I am hearing. I'm not aware of what I'm not hearing because, yep, I can't hear it. Hearing aids give me an idea of the shimmering highs in the violin tone, but do they improve music? No: mostly they make it sound like cheap horrible audio!
    My hearing, at last test, slopes off from one kH. I haven't got one to try, but not sure whether I can even hear the top few notes on a piano any longer. I can't hear the beeps that idiot young designers build into gadgets, so can I hear every not a piccolo can play? Probably not.

    Can hifi help? I decided a while back that it was no longer worth spending money on my ears (I switched to photography so I'm no richer!) and then... I discovered the difference that HD800s make, even to the spoken word: a great investment! And there are surprising things, like finding that I can tell the difference between two amplifiers on the same 'phones. And, as I said, that bad sound is not only still bad, it is worse.

    I get out a lot to (sadly often over-amplified) South-Indian classical music. I love the whole experience. And I still hear a lot of the sound. More than you might think. But I don't listen to much music of any kind at home, any longer. I find it a bit like listening to low-bit-rate MP3. I don't mean 128: I mean 32. The life goes out of it.

    Is it worth buying high-end audio when you are already getting actually deaf? No. It isn't. But avoid bad audio like the plague. The question can you hear the difference becomes very literal. Hell, yes, sometimes its the difference between bearable and intolerable.

    And don't be afraid of EQ. The music that comes as close as I can tell to balanced would be someone else's screech. In that respect, high fidelity is certainly a thing of the past.
     
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  2. imackler

    imackler Key Lime Pie Infected Aberdeen Wings Spy

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    I really wish there was an easy way to calculate how many decibels you were listening at depending upon source, amp and headphone. But the way I see it, there's no way to calculate, at least with most amps, what volume you're listening to, when all you can say is a subjective "between 9-10 pm on low gain!" This is an interesting discussion for me, not only because I fear hearing loss, but because I've noticed more recently how much more I appreciate the differences in gear, etc., if I turn up the volume. I've gotten into the habit of listening at what I imagine are very low volumes, which is enjoyable but less resolving of gear differences. I've been tempted to splurge more recently, by turning up the volume, which is more enjoyable and more resolving. Kind of feels like going slightly off a diet! My guess is that it is still much lower than most music listeners but I don't really know.
     
  3. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    I was really uncomfortable at a Who concert in Philly a few years ago, and finally decided I'd always take ear plugs with me just in case. Used solid foam ones a few times, but strongly disliked the resulting sound.
    We had tickets to see Joe Bonamassa locally last evening, so checked some reviews on Amazon. I considered Rooth, Etymotics & Earasers. I know from experience that I can't tolerate triple flange IEMs for more than a short time, so that elimated the Rooth & Etymotics, and I bought the Earasers.
    The concert volume was fairly loud, but nothing like some big arena shows - I measured mid-90s dBA and 100 dB peak on an iPhone app. Using the same app, listening to 2 channel at home I'm usually 10 dB lower, maybe 5 lower for a track I really wanna crank.
    I listened to 4 songs before using them. The fit is tolerable; I like the Comply-style foam better, but I haven't seen ear plugs that use that kind of tip. Immediately I could tell there was a fairly significant FR shift and the sound was somewhat more muffled, but better than solid foam plugs. Lows weren't attenuated very much; cymbals were noticeably so. Vocals & guitar were attenuated, but in pretty good balance to each other. First impression was "this sucks", but after a couple songs my ears adapted and I decided to keep them in.
    Still, I would have been 100x happier to have heard the concert unblocked at a less-damaging sound level.

    Anybody know of any other plugs worth trying that aren't triple flange? It was only this morning that I read more of this thread and Tyll's post on toilet paper. I'll be pretty pissed at myself if that turns out better than spending $40 on the Earasers.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  4. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    If you need just a bit of attenuation, a beanie or toque (with optionally a circle of felt at the ears) works well.
     
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  5. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    For the local Bonamassa show, yeah that might have been enough. For that Who concert, no way. That had to be 10 or 15 dB louder. It was painful.
     
  6. Kunlun

    Kunlun cat-alyzes cat-aclysmic cat-erwauling - Friend

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  7. elecarec

    elecarec Rando

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    These scientific charts are utter garbage and do more harm than good. The fact is that a lot of ears are already compromised and these "safe" levels no longer apply.

    They are literally dangerous because they imply it's safe to listen to music at 85dB every day as long as it's under a certain amount of hours, but the damage is cumulative.
     
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  8. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    That is an excellent point. It is not ok to get one's "allowance" of loud noise. That would be a dangerous way of thinking
     
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  9. SmashBruh

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    In that case how is one supposed to listen to music at fun levels while still preserving their hearing? :(

    I listen to music for 8-12 hrs a day while I work and do other things and find that music just isn't fun unless you're listening at least at 83-87 db... God forbid trebles be overly rolled off, then music will sound incredibly distant unless it's at those levels... So how does one preserve their hearing while still enjoying their music??

    Also, does anyone have any tips or tricks to ensure they're listening to safe levels?? I try to start my music low and then slowly raise it to where I feel the sound is blooming properly and then every hour or so repeat the process. I also stick my phone into my headphone cups to read the dbs and try to keep the db meter between 80-84db when it comes to peaks (I realize this method of measurement isn't exact because it doesn't account for seal, but I can't imagine the seal generates any more than an extra 5 db, right??
     
  10. Tachikoma

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    Using IEMs would reduce the need to boost volume just to get over ambient noise.

    Splitting up listening sessions might also help to prevent acclimatization to high volumes. In any case, I find that listening for long, continuous periods of time makes me "numb" to music.
     
  11. Brooko

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    Yes and no. IEMs are great as long as you can train yourself to listen at low volumes. The problem is that many simply enjoy the isolation and crank it up at the same time.

    With completely sealed IEMs, your head actually acts as an amplifier. Thinks that's BS? Try doing a bit of exercise, then put your fingers in your ears. You'll hear your heartbeat. Take them out, you'll simply feel it.

    The issue for most of us is that loud sounds good. But the insidious issue is that we have a protective mechanism built into our bodies called the acoustic stapedius reflex (ASR). When confronted with a loud sound, the ear reacts dampening that sound. Its why crying babies don't damage their ears. The body's natural protection. The problem is that if we turn the music up, that reaction has to continue, so we turn it up, etc - until eventually we're listening really loud, the ASR has been overwhelmed, and we're damaging our hearing - often permanently.

    But if you train yourself to listen to music at a much lower level, IEMs are perfect because they do help deal with ambient noise. Typically I listen to music (with IEMs) at around 65-70dB. It took a while to get used to - but worth it.

    The reason I do this? One single concert almost 20 years ago. Jimmy Barnes. Wasn't keen, but my wifes boss was paying, and so I thought why not. Indoor venue. I had no ear protection (stupid!). 2 hours later we walked out and I couldn't hear a thing except ringing. My hearing came back over the next 2 days - but permanent tinnitus.

    Its slowly deteriorated over time, but you learn to cope. Upsides - I can't hear noise floor :) Downsides - I miss true silence.

    But I'm protecting what I have left. I suggest everyone should be aware of their listening levels, and trying to reduce them. 80-85dB with IEMs, and you're asking for long term trouble.
     
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  12. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    Some of us don't. My ENT doc said, "No big deal, lots of people don't have it," but maybe its part of the reason I've always disliked very loud music and other noises --- and part of the reason my hearing is as bad is it is now.

    .
     
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  13. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    The
    The only bright side of being old is that if something does hurt you today, you do not have to worry about long term ;)
     
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  14. Brooko

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    My understanding is that the ASR deteriorates over time (as we get older) and can eventually disappear altogether. People with conductive hearing loss (including from birth) may not have any ASR at all.

    I have a friend who has hyperacusis (can feel genuine pain with some noise - particularly at high levels), so if your reaction is somewhat akin to that, you have my genuine sympathy. It makes things pretty hard for her.
     
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  15. Thad E Ginathom

    Thad E Ginathom Friend

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    That's interesting. All I know is that it was on the list for a hearing test I had a few years ago, and reported as not present. No idea if that mean ever. And, to be honest, that was the first time I ever heard of it.

    I don't know about genuine pain. Certainly serious discomfort. I guess define-as-pain thresholds would vary for this as with other things. I can cry like a baby over some things and be quite stoic over others. When I had major surgery, the nurses kept on telling me that I was as strong as a horse: nobody would believe that I'm really a complete wimp.
     
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  16. gixxerwimp

    gixxerwimp Professional tricycle rider

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    I cringe at loud noises (like my wife sneezing) and feel serious discomfort, possibly pain. Have to use TP earplugs (a la @tyll) at all action movies. They work better than the Ety plugs I bought as you can adjust the attenuation as necessary and let some of the HF through by leaving a tiny hole into the ear.

    Also tinnitus as previously mentioned. I remember standing in front of the stacks feeling the bass vibrate my clothes at one of the first rock concerts I went to in high school. Boy was that dumb.
     
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  17. Failed Engineer

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    I’ve been looking for a lazy method to estimate listening levels with headphones and yesterday stumbled upon using my Apple Watch noise app. Works great for quick checks. The watch can embed in the ear cup and the pads rest against the arm. As far as I can tell it cannot record levels. I wonder if the App Store has an app that can record the sound levels.

    Edit: Apparently I’m late to the game. There’s multiple apps in the App Store with a watch app. At least a couple have recording function. Anyone use a specific one with a watch and tried recording a song to see what you like to listen at?
     
  18. assassin10000

    assassin10000 Rando

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    I have the Earasers as well, I keep them on my keychain for general use where I want to tone things down. I took the filter out and found that it is a knowles acoustic damper. The normal '-19db' have the white filter (680Ω), you could try the grey (330Ω) and see if that helps. I also checked their '-31db' version, it had a yellow (4700Ω) filter.


    If you get the etymotic er20xs, you can use the same comply tips as the er4. I haven't heard these plugs so I can't say if it'll be any better than the Earasers.
     
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  19. ergopower

    ergopower Friend

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    Thanks, I'm gonna check that out
     
  20. wormcycle

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    Hearing loss , and brain compensation is way more complex phenomenon than I can comprehend.
    First there is no really good test for hearing focused on listening to music. Medical tests focus on the human communication frequencies. listening to a single frequency sound is very unreliable.
    I thought, and confirmed few times just taking basic on the web hearing tests that my left ear is at 11-11.5 kHz my right is 9.5-10.
    I was reading about the digital filters of RME ADI-2 and read that slow filter sounds better with EQ+3dB, 16.5 kHz, Q:2.1.
    I used it and with thought could hear some difference: more open sound, a bit better separation of the treble frequencies. But I did not believe that.
    "Blind" test was easy to perform: a cable long enough to seat far from RME blindfolded, a sensitive headphones (like HEKSE), programming one button on RME to toggle between EQ and non EQ, and my wife to press the the button or not, without telling me. A wife is not really necessary in this setup, I just happen to have one.

    To my surprise I was able, with two different recordings, to identify EQ on or off 7 and 8 times of 10.
    WTF is going on?
     
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