Protect Your Ears During Festival Season

Protect Your Ears During Festival Season

Summer is almost here. For many people in San Diego, that means it’s festival season. Whether you’re going to see a three-day lineup of the hottest bands in the country or a one-off concert, the music is bound to be loud. To avoid damage to your ears, you’ll have to be sure to protect your hearing.

Music and Hearing Loss
father and daughter at a music festival in San Diego

The biggest cause of hearing loss is noise – and exposure to loud music is one surefire way to cause irreversible damage if you aren’t careful. Anything louder than 85 decibels (dB) has the potential to permanently destroy the tiny hair cells in your cochlea that are responsible for processing sound. The louder the volume, the less time it takes to do damage.

Curious about decibel levels? Let’s put it into context. Everyday speech clocks in at about 65 dB, while a rock ‘n roll concert is nearly double that – around 110 dB on average. Obviously, a heavy metal band will be noisier than an acoustic folk trio, so take that into consideration. The closer you are to the stage – and the speakers – the louder the volume will be. At 110 dB, hearing loss can occur in as little as two minutes if you aren’t wearing hearing protection. If you think wearing earplugs to a concert isn’t “cool,” you know what else isn’t cool? Asking your friends to repeat themselves a hundred times because you can’t hear them!

If you’ve ever been to a concert and experienced a ringing sensation in your ears afterward, then you’ve already put your hearing at risk. Tinnitus is a common side effect of noise exposure. It usually disappears after a few hours, or maybe the next day, but repeatedly listening to loud music without protecting your ears can lead to a permanent ringing in the ears – and trust us, that’s no fun. Tinnitus causes anxiety and irritability, can interfere with sleep, and may lead to depression. Recent studies even show higher rates of suicide among tinnitus sufferers, so it’s no joke.

And there’s a lot of overlap between tinnitus and hearing loss: 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus and 48 million have hearing loss to some degree.

Protecting Your Ears

If you’re going to be attending concerts this summer, your San Diego audiologist urges you to wear earplugs. They’re the easiest (and most effective) way to protect your hearing from the damage loud music can cause. You can pick up a pair of disposable foam earplugs from most drugstores, and they will help, but your best bet is to purchase custom earplugs made from molds of your ear canals. They cost a bit more but will fit you perfectly and offer superior noise protection. If you’re a frequent concert-goer, they are well worth the investment.

Music isn’t the only potentially damaging source of noise in the summertime. Popular recreational activities such as boating, attending baseball games, watching fireworks – even mowing the lawn – can cause hearing damage if you aren’t careful. Be prepared by bringing along your earplugs whenever you participate in any of these activities.

Your San Diego audiologist can give you additional tips on protecting your hearing this summer.


Why Should You Wear Musician’s Earplugs?

Whether you’re a wannabe rock ‘n roll star playing to a few bored friends in your basement or have already made it big, showcasing your mad axe skills to enraptured audiences at gigs across San Diego, constant exposure to loud music can have long-term consequences. No, we’re not talking about groupies, but rather, hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Loud concert that could damage your hearing

One of the leading causes of hearing loss in San Diego and throughout the United States is noise exposure. Sounds exceeding 85 decibels can cause permanent damage to the tiny hair cells of your inner ear; the louder the sound, the less safe exposure time you have. Music levels at most concerts average 100 to 120 decibels; in the midrange – 110 decibels – irreversible hearing loss can occur after only two minutes. It’s no wonder exposure to loud music is one of the leading causes of noise-induced hearing loss in San Diego!

Musicians are especially prone to based on the nature of their work. If you’re in a band, you doubtless spend many hours practicing – at least if you want to be any good! – and performing. Good hearing is an important part of the creative process; you’ll need a keen ear in order to compose music and play it accurately. Unfortunately, the damaging sounds associated with noise exposure contribute to a hearing loss and tinnitus, both of which could bring about an early end to your career. High- hearing loss profile musicians suffering from noise-induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus include Pete Townshend, Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Sting, Roger Daltrey, Ozzy Osbourne, and Neil Young. Few of them used a simple yet effective preventative tool: musician’s earplugs.

Benefits of Musician’s Earplugs

Musicians’ earplugs are the single most effective tool in preventing noise-induced hearing loss. Traditional earplugs block noise from entering the ear canals; while this is helpful to an extent, it results in music and speech that is muffled and distorted – hardly conducive to shredding on the guitar or banging out an extended drum solo.

To compensate for this, musician’s earplugs are made up of a diaphragm and earmold that work together to produce attenuation, an even reduction in sound that is smooth and flat across the entire frequency range. The result is a high-fidelity device that makes music and speech sound clear and natural. Musicians can hear their own instruments and gauge how well they blend in with those of their bandmates. This can mean the difference between a no-hit wonder and a chart-topping success story.

Musician’s earplugs often come with interchangeable attenuators that provide varying levels of sound protection for multiple listening situations; think private rehearsals versus concerts in large auditoriums. By using musician’s earplugs, you can save valuable stage space and eliminate bulky loudspeaker monitoring systems, which tend to increase noise levels anyway.

If you’re a musician in San Diego – or even an avid concertgoer who wouldn’t know a treble clef from a troubled chef – drop by your audiologist’s office for a pair of musician’s earplugs. It’ll be the best investment you can make for your hearing!

Can Headphones Prevent Hearing Loss?

If you’re like many people in San Diego and across the country, you like listening to music. And let’s face it: the louder it’s played, the better it sounds! With the possible exception of easy listening music, of course. But play your music too loudly, and you’re at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is defined as permanent damage to your hearing as a result of noise exposure. An estimated 10 million Americans have experienced irreversible hearing damage that resulted from exposure to loud sounds, and 30-50 million more are exposed to potentially dangerous noise levels every day. NIHL is considered the most common cause of hearing loss, and because the condition develops gradually over time, most people don’t even realize they are suffering from a problem until it’s too late.

The good news? NIHL is almost entirely preventable. Proper hearing protection greatly reduces your risk of damaging the tiny hair cells in your cochlea. While any noise exceeding 85 decibels can contribute to hearing loss, music is one of the biggest culprits – especially when you listen with headphones or earbuds.

The Dangers of Wearing Headphones

headphone usage in San Diego

Headphones are a great way to enjoy music without disturbing others, but doing so may cause irreparable damage to your hearing. While manufacturers have cut back on the volume levels headphones are able to produce in the past couple of decades, the problem occurs when people wear them for extended periods of time. If you’re like me, you’ll slip on a pair of headphones and listen for hours at a time while doing work. In addition, people tend to use headphones to block out other noisy environments, but in doing so they overcompensate by listening for long periods of time at higher volume levels, negating any positive effect. It’s a vicious circle of sorts!

But by taking precautions and choosing your headphones carefully, you can reduce your risk and even help to prevent noise induced hearing loss.

Tips for Safe Headphone Use

There are steps you can take to make headphone use safe. Obviously, you should turn down the volume and limit how long you use them. Consider the 80-90 rule, which stipulates that if you listen to music at 80% of maximum volume, you should limit your use to 90 minutes. The type of headphone you choose matters, as well.

Noise-canceling headphones rely on technology that creates sound waves that block outside noise, allowing you to listen at a lower volume level since you do not have to turn up the music in order to drown out other noise. Some models have features that automatically adjust volume levels based on how long (and how loudly) you’ve been wearing them. Noise-canceling headphones vary widely in price depending on brand and features; consult your favorite consumer site for ratings when shopping around and determine whether you really need all those bells and whistles in the first place.

When in doubt, your San Diego audiologist can help you choose a pair of headphones perfect for your listening needs.

What are Musician Earplugs?

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

What are musician earplugs?

Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises, known as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), is one of the most common and preventable types of hearing loss. It is estimated that 15 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 are experiencing hearing loss that is the result of exposure to excessive noise either at work or through recreational activities.

High-risk pursuits include hunting, riding motorcycles and snowmobiles, attending rock concerts, listening to music at high volume through earbuds or headphones, and even mowing the lawn or using a leaf blower.

Are Musicians at Risk of NIHL?

Musicians in San Diego and around the country spend a significant amount of their time practicing and performing, exposing themselves to loud music. Being around these dangerously loud sounds can lead to a number of hearing disorders including long-term hearing loss, tinnitus and more.

The good news? Musicians earplugs can help prevent noise-induced hearing loss while allowing musicians to enjoy the music and reduce their risk of developing permanent hearing damage.

Musician Earplugs

Unlike traditional earplugs that block out noise and cause music and speech to sound muffled or distorted, musicians earplugs are high-fidelity. This means these earplugs are able to reduce sound levels evenly while keeping the original quality of the music intact. Not only does this lead to music and speech that is clear and natural, it also allows musicians to hear their own instruments.

Musicians earplugs are made up of a diaphragm and earmold that work together to produce attenuation (reduction in sound) that is smooth and flat across the entire frequency range.

Contrary to their name, these devices can be used by more than just musicians. Those attending any live performance can benefit from these devices, as they will both protect their hearing and allow them to hear the music as it was originally meant to be heard.

Contact your San Diego audiologist to learn more about musician earplugs and other earmolds to protect your hearing.

Hearing Loss Facts for Summer

Do you know how to protect your ears from hearing loss all winter long? There are plenty of festive activities throughout the summer months, some of which may increase your risk for noise-induced hearing loss if. Many San Diego residents remain unaware of the potential problems caused by noise from Padres games and other high-volume activities. Here are some hearing loss facts for your hearing all summer long:

 hearing loss facts

Any Sound Over 85 dB Can Cause Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is the number one factor resulting in hearing loss, and it can affect San Diego residents young and old alike. It’s vital to protect your ears from hearing loss and tinnitus during any noisy activity by wearing earplugs. Generic, one-size-fits-all earplugs are easy to find, and they are a simple and relatively inexpensive investment for your hearing health.


Custom Earplugs Offer Premium Hearing Protection

Custom-crafted earplugs are available from most San Diego audiologists. Customized plugs perfectly fit the unique contours of your ears, guaranteeing a snug, proper fit and dependable protection from hearing loss and tinnitus. There are also specialty plugs for many activities, including musician’s monitors, hunter’s earmolds, shooter’s plugs and swimmer’s earplugs.


Pay Attention to the Decibels

If you find yourself in a situation in which you don’t have earplugs to protect against hearing loss, it’s important to remove yourself if there’s a high risk for damaging your ears. Sounds at 85 dB can cause damage in eight hours, while 100-dB noise can take just one hour to inflict irreversible hearing loss. If you’re not sure how loud a sound is, you can get a meter or simply download one on your computer or smartphone.


Summer should be a time for family trips and hours of fun in the sun. Don’t let loud noises ruin the day. Contact your San Diego audiologist to learn how to protect yourself all summer long.


The Sweet Sounds of Tinnitus!

After anxiously waiting in the online queue for what felt like hours, you finally snagged those tickets to the hottest show coming to San Diego. We will call him “Truce Ringsteen”. Once you are done celebrating, it is time to figure out how to prepare for the concert of your life.

tinnitus and concerts

Concerts are one of the common causes of tinnitus in San Diego. To understand why, first you need to understand how loud noises can harm your hearing. Anything over 85 dB can damage the intricate inner workings of your ear. To put this into perspective: a normal conversation clocks in at about 60 dB, traffic in San Diego can be about 85 dB and the sirens on an emergency vehicle can reach 120 dB. Now, just to be clear, an ambulance zooming past you on the freeway won’t damage your hearing. Noise induced hearing loss only happens when something is incredibly loud, such as an explosion, or you are exposed to any sound over 85 dB for an extended period of time. Sounds like a concert to me.


Much like noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus is caused by damage to the inner ear. Inside the inner ear, there are small hairs. Sound waves cause these hairs to move, and these movements send an electrical signal through the auditory nerve to your brain where it is interpreted as sound. If these hairs become damaged, they can randomly send electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus. Age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noise and earwax blockage are all common conditions that cause inner ear damage.


The good news is there is an easy solution. Earplugs! Seems almost too simple. Fortunately for you, you had to buy your Truce Ringsteen tickets far in advance. This give you time to visit your San Diego audiologist to be fitted for earplugs. While there are a wide variety of earplugs on the market, the best ones are the ones that are expertly fit to your ear. Musician’s earplugs are the ones you will need. These custom earmolds are able to reduce sound levels evenly so music and speech sound clear. These plugs prevent dangerously loud sounds from entering the ear but still keep the integrity of the music intact.

Don’t let the concert of a lifetime leave you with a lifelong condition. Contact your San Diego audiologist for more information on how to safely attend a concert.


Children, Headphones & Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Children in San Diego and throughout the country are at an ever growing risk of developing hearing loss. The number of Americans with hearing loss has actually doubled within the past 30 years. This steep increase can be partially attributed to the use of personal music players.

children headphones and noise-induced hearing loss

San Diego audiologists explain that the danger of a personal music player is noise-induced hearing loss. Every sound is measured in decibels (dB). Listening to anything over 85 dB (heavy city traffic) can cause damage after eight hours. Listening to anything over 100 dB (motorcycle) can cause damage within 15 minutes. Listening to anything over 120 dB (jackhammer) can cause damage immediately.


Audiologists have been conducting research on personal music players. One study found that 25 percent of those who use a personal music player are exposed to daily noise that is high enough to cause damage. A 2010 study found that a standard set of earbuds connected to an iPod set to its maximum volume produced an average sound level of 96 dB. This is higher than what is legally allowed in most workplaces. Another study found that 90 percent of all adolescents listen to music using earbuds; almost half listened at a high-volume setting.


The simplest way to correct this problem would be to turn the music down. But if you are a parent you know how much children enjoy following rules. Your San Diego audiologist recommends implementing the 60/60 rule. This rule states that you can listen to your music at 60 percent of its maximum volume for 60 minutes a day.  Researchers have determined that this volume for this length of time will not cause any harm to your hearing.


Below are some things to try if your child still listens to their music too loudly.

  • Replace your child’s in-ear bud-style headphones with an over-the-ear model.
  • Set a sound limit. Most music players have a parental option. With this you can set a password-protected listening limit.
  • Purchase kid-safe headphones. Headphones designed specifically for children often have a lower-than-normal maximum volume level.


If you need any additional help figuring out how to protect your child from noise-induced hearing loss, contact your local San Diego audiologist.

The Hidden Hearing Loss Effect

Each day we all experience sound in the environment.  Many of these sounds are low intensity, satisfying, and others are the mundane sounds of life, such as television, radio, household appliances, cars running, traffic, etc.  Most of these sounds are at very safe levels and do not cause any danger to hearing.

ear-foliclesWe also know however, that there are loud sounds, some brief, other long lasting, that can injure hearing causing Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). We know that NIHL can be immediate or be incurred over a long period.  It can be temporary, or permanent affecting only one or both ears.  We also know that this type of hearing loss, though one of the most prevalent, can be prevented by less exposure to loud noise, music or other sounds.

According to the NICD (2016), about 15% of the US population between the ages of 20 and 69 or 26 million people have hearing loss that was probably caused by noise exposure at work or in those noisy, but fun leisure activities.  Until recently, the thought was that most NIHL was caused by significant damage or death of the hair cells within the cochlea.  Rabinowitz (2000) summarized the typical thoughts on the pathophysiology of NIHL.   He felt that, “Sounds must exert a shearing force on the stereo cilia of the hair cells lining the basilar membrane of the cochlea. When excessive, this force can lead to cellular metabolic overload, cell damage and cell death. Noise-induced hearing loss therefore represents excessive “wear and tear” on the delicate inner ear structures. Once exposure to damaging noise levels is discontinued, further significant progression of hearing loss stops. Individual susceptibility to noise-induced hearing loss varies greatly, but the reason that some persons are more resistant to it while others are more susceptible is not well understood.”   For decades’ studies from around the world have concurred with this suggestion that NIHL and age related hearing loss have focused upon the loss of these stereo cilia, often called hair cells.  While these stereo cilia are vulnerable, researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary’s  (MEEI) Eaton Peabody Laboratory at Harvard Medical School have now shown that nerve fibers are even more vulnerable to damage from noise.

ear_cell_comparison1In the normal ear, sound waves are transmitted through the middle ear bones to the inner ear, where they cause vibrations in the sensory epithelium called the “organ of Corti.” The organ of Corti turns this mechanical function into electrical pulse trains in the fibers of the cochlear nerve, which then carries the information to the brain for analysis of the acoustic scene.  Dr. Charles Liberman, Director of MEEIs Eaton Peabody Laboratory, is an expert on the peripheral auditory system.  He explains that, “The organ of Corti contains two types of sensory cells: outer and inner hair cells,” explained Charles Liberman, director of MEEI’s Eaton Peabody Laboratory.

“The sensory cells are called ‘hair cells’ because of the hair-like tufts of microvilla on their apical surfaces, which are called ‘stereo cilia.’ Bending the stereo cilia opens ion channels in the nerve hair cells and allows a current to flow that ultimately excites the fibers of the cochlear nerve. This is the heart of the mechanical-to-electrical transduction process in the inner ear.”

How did this hidden hearing loss remain “hidden” so long?   Liberman felt that there are two main reasons for this, ”First, the field of auditory neuroscience didn’t appreciate until recently that you can lose up to 90 percent of your cochlear nerve fibers without a change in the ability to detect a tone in quiet,” he said. “Tone detection in quiet is the basis of the threshold audiogram — the gold standard test of hearing function. The fact that thresholds may transiently elevate and then recover within hours or days after an acoustic overexposure doesn’t mean that the inner ear has recovered.” “And Second, the most vulnerable part of the neuron turns out to be the synapse between the nerve terminal and the hair cell, and it happens to be difficult to see. “Until recently, they could only be seen and counted by using an electron microscope,”

In their research, Liberman and Sharon Kujawa, Director of Audiology for MEEI stained synapses with antibodies that target molecular structures within the synapse, which allowed the synapses to be seen and easily counted in a light microscope. This enabled them to view many synapses on hair cells in a normal ear, as well as the greatly reduced numbers of synapses hair cells following a noise exposure that caused only a transient elevation of thresholds.

hearing-loss-ct-scanThey noted that “each missing synapse represents a missing cochlear nerve that has been disconnected due to retraction of the terminal segment — it will never reconnect.”  Liberman also indicated that, “It no longer responds to sound and, within a few months is almost certainly unwarranted,” The researchers are aware of the public health implications of their findings in that all our federal noise exposure guidelines assume that noise exposures cause only transient threshold elevation are benign and now that assumption is certainly outdated.

While their research was conducted on mammalian ears, mouse, guinea pig and chinchillas, there is every reason to believe that that this same phenomenon exists in humans.  The study has led to the possibility that maybe these synapse issues can be reversible, continuing research goes on in their laboratory on this issue.

Mapping Hearing Loss Solutions

mapping our hearing loss, the charitable arm of the world’s largest search engine, is supporting  World Wide Hearing (WWH) to find a solution to what the World Health Organization (WHO) has described as one of the largest disabilities on the planet.

Hearing loss.

It affects one-third of people over the age of 65 and more than 1 billion young people are at risk for impaired hearing.

The WHO highlighted the risk of hearing loss in a release in early 2015 stating that half of young people, between the ages of 12-35 “are exposed to unsafe levels of sound.”
Through Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities, World Wide Hearing in Montreal, was awarded a grant to do something never done before. Develop and map out data points on hearing health from across the world in the hopes of better understanding hearing loss.


10,000 people will have their hearing tested as researchers try to better understand the dynamics of hearing loss.


This global database will be the first step in understanding and addressing the dynamics of this potentially debilitating disability.

WWH Executive Director Audra Renyi grew up experiencing the first hand impacts of hearing loss.  Her father suffered hearing loss as a child when he contracted an ear infection in his native Romania.

“So many people live with this disability that often goes under the radar,”

says Renyi.

Compounding the fact is that new research has shown a direct link between hearing health and mental health. How well you hear is directly linked to your risk for dementia, depression and anxiety.

Researchers have found that cognitive decline increases by up to 40% as hearing slides. With young people, hearing loss can have serious impacts on development.

hearing loss mapping

Children and young people who suffer from hearing loss are at a greater risk for depression and anxiety; they also face challenges in school, lower self-esteem and social isolation. How well you hear is connected to how you feel and for young people, how well they develop; making early diagnosis and treatment vital.

The first step for the team is to test thousands of ears all over the world and map out the world’s hearing health.

To make this possible, WWH needed a technology partner who could help make this a reality. They partnered with Clearwater Clinical, a Canadian company and creators of the first clinically validated iPad audiometer. “No other hearing testing equipment is as compact, easy-to-use, and fun,” says Dr. Matthew Bromwich, Otolaryngologist and Co-founder of the company

It’s called SHOEBOX Audiometry and it’s comprised of software that is loaded onto an iPad and shipped with calibrated headphones. The solution is an audiometer that can administer diagnostic hearing tests.   The test is designed to feel more like a computer game, and the data it produces is transmitted and stored safely and securely onto the cloud.

Mobile medicine, like the kind delivered through SHOEBOX is an important step in being able to reach communities. The simplicity of the technology allows for quick and easy deployment to parts of the world where people may have never had their hearing tested.


But not all apps are created equal. A quick Google search will pull up lots of tablet and phone applications on hearing testing, many of which can provide good, general screening results. However, only a handful of apps like SHOEBOX, Frye Colt, Piccolo and iAudiometer provide a full medical diagnostic and essentially remotely replicate a traditional audiology booth.


For Renyi the new approach made sense.
“We wanted to find mobile solutions and solutions that we had confidence in. There is solid research behind it and we have a lot of confidence in the data,”says Renyi.

Another important factor is that while the data must be interpreted by an audiologist, the hearing tests can be performed by individuals that aren’t hearing health professionals.

This novel approach is already being well received. In Guatemala, technicians have been trained and have administered tests in several communities.

The simplicity of the technology means that with some hands-on training, individuals – including many women – are being empowered with the opportunity to help perform vital health services, and in turn, support their families.

The global hearing project is performing hearing screenings in the Mohawk community south of Montreal this month with plans for testing in South America and Southeast Asia later this year.

Reprinted with permission from
Please visit for the original article: Mapping Out Solutions to Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss in Children

October is a time for celebration—not just in the costumes-and-candy way, but also in the empowerment through education way! For those who might not know, October is Audiology Awareness month, and as hearing health professionals, we welcome the opportunity to encourage awareness and education about America’s third most common health problem: hearing loss. Hearing loss doesn’t discriminate; it can impact individuals of all walks of life, including children. In order to help our community identify hearing loss in children, we’ve compiled need-to-know information on pediatric hearing impairment.
hearing loss in children san diego



  • Approximately 12% of children from ages 6 to 19 suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Approximately 1.4 out of every 1,000 newborns have hearing loss.
  • One in five teens has loss.
  • When untreated, loss of hearing can cause delays in communication and social functioning.
  • Noise-induced loss is permanent, but 100% preventable.


Risk Factors:

  • Regular exposure to unsafe noise levels (sporting events, band class, mp3 players, arcades) can cause irreversible noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Frequent untreated middle ear infections can cause lasting damage to the auditory system, resulting in permanent loss.
  • As many as 60% of hearing loss cases in children are genetic.


 Prevention and Diagnosis:

  • If your child is regularly exposed to loud noise, invest in a custom hearing protection option that will allow them to hear sounds at a safe volume.
  • If you suspect your child is not meeting communication development goals, consult an audiologist. Audiologists are able to diagnose hearing loss in children as young as six months old through behavioral hearing examinations.


When it comes to loss of hearing, early intervention is key. If left untreated, hearing can further deteriorate and cause other health complications. If you suspect you or a loved one may be hearing impaired, San Diego Hearing Center can help. Our team of audiology experts are dedicated to the hearing health of each patient. To schedule a consultation, contact our staff at (858) 279-3277.