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Category Archives: Sudden Hearing Loss

Guitarist Paul Langlois Diagnosed With Sudden Hearing Loss

Paul Langlois of the Canadian band The Tragically Hip lost all hearing in his right ear.

The sentence “Let’s just see what the morning brings”, from The Tragically Hip song Wheat kings, turned out to have extra significance for one of the band’s members, namely guitarist Paul Langlois.

As the Canadian rock band, referred to as The Hip, was recording its album, Now for Plan A, guitarist Paul Langlois suddenly lost all hearing in his right ear, resulting in him becoming completely deaf on his right side.

The Hip-guitarist was diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), a relatively rare condition which involves the onset of unexplained one-sided deafness.

Early treatment for sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) may potentially save a person’s hearing. Most people recover from the condition, but about 15% have hearing loss which continues to worsen. Further treatment may involve various types of hearing aid or cochlear implants.

The “New Normal”

Being diagnosed with sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) left The Tragically Hip-guitarist Paul Langlois in an anxious state. He feared that his music career would be over if he lost the ability to sing in key.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

Paul Langlois (far left), member of Tragically Hip, suffers sudden hearing loss.

A small blessing for the guitarist, however, was that the band was in the studio recording and not on the road. This allowed Paul Langlois more time to get used to and adjust to ‘the new normal’.

Musical and social adjustment

Following the diagnosis of sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), Paul Langlois always plays on the right side of the stage while touring with The Tragically Hip. This means that the band is on the guitarist’s left side, where his good ear is. Paul Langlois’ condition therefore does not force him to switch the way the band lines up onstage.

With time, the guitarist has adjusted both musically and socially to the sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL) in his right ear. From being anxious and worried about his musical future, The Tragically Hip-member has become more relaxed about his condition.

Source: The Calgary Herald

New Social Media

Etymotic Launches MusicPRO Electronic Musicians Earplugs

Etymotic Research has released Music•PRO earplugs, designed for musicians who desire hearing protection during performances while avoiding the inconvenience of removing earplugs to hear communications at safe sound levels.

The Music•PRO 9-15 combines the performance of two of the company’s high-fidelity passive earplugs, the ER-9 and ER-15 musicians earplugs. The resulting Music•PRO line is a high-fidelity adaptive electronic earplug that allows natural hearing when sound levels are safe and automatic protection from both loud, sustained music and loud percussive sounds. The new earplugs also can allow the soft sounds of music and speech to be enhanced.

The Music•PRO circuitry automatically changes output levels as sound input levels change. Consequently, hearing appears natural, as if nothing is in the ears, until sound exceeds safe levels. As sound levels increase, the earplugs gradually provide 9 or 15 decibel sound reduction. When sound returns to safe levels, natural hearing mode is automatically restored.

Etymotic says that the earplugs are designed with directors and musicians in mind, although front-of-house personnel, support staff, and security personnel near the stage may also benefit from Music•PRO’s ability to switch between levels of protection and communication.

Dr Gail Gudmundsen, managing director, audiology division, at Etymotic, stated in the press release, “With Music•PRO earplugs, we’re pleased to offer the first electronic earplugs for music industry professionals that allow them to hear their music naturally but be protected with no loss of clarity when sound exceeds safe levels. No other devices can do that.”

The Music•PRO can be purchased online by visiting Etymotic’s website or other online retailers such as Amazon.

72 % of Teenagers Experienced Reduced Hearing Ability After Attending Concert

Seventy-two percent of teenagers participating in a study experienced reduced hearing ability following exposure to a pop rock performance by a popular female singer. 

M. Jennifer Derebery, MD, House Clinic physician, along with the House Research Institute tested teens’ hearing before and after a concert and presented the study findings at the American Otologic Society meeting on April 21, 2012.  The study has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of Otology & Neurotology.

The hearing loss that may be experienced after a pop rock concert is not generally believed to be permanent.  It is called a temporary threshold shift and usually disappears within 16-48 hours, after which a person’s hearing returns to previous levels.

“Teenagers need to understand a single exposure to loud noise either from a concert or personal listening device can lead to hearing loss,” said M. Jennifer Derebery, MD, lead author and physician at the House Clinic. “With multiple exposures to noise over 85 decibels, the tiny hair cells may stop functioning and the hearing loss may be permanent.”

In the study, twenty-nine teenagers were given free tickets to a rock concert.  To ensure a similar level of noise exposure for the teens, there were two blocks of seats within close range of each other.  The seats were located in front of the stage at the far end of the venue approximately 15-18 rows up from the floor.

Parental consent was obtained for all of the underage study participants.  The importance of using hearing protection was explained to the teenagers.  Researchers then offered hearing protection to the subjects and encouraged them to use the foam ear plugs.  However, only three teenagers chose to do so.

Three adult researchers sat with the teenagers.  Using a calibrated sound pressure meter, 1,645 measurements of sound decibel (dBA) levels were recorded during the 26 songs played during the three hour concert. The sound levels ranged from 82-110 dBA, with an average of 98.5 dBA.  The mean level was greater than 100 dBA for 10 of the 26 songs.

The decibel levels experienced at the concert exceeded what is allowable in the workplace, according to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  OSHA safe listening guidelines set time limits for exposures to sound levels of 85 dB and greater in the workplace.  The volumes recorded during the concert would have violated OSHA standards in less than 30 minutes.  In fact, one third of the teen listeners showed a temporary threshold shift that would not be acceptable in adult workplace environments.

Following the concert, the majority of the study participants were also found to have a significant reduction in the Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions (OAE) test. This test checks the function of the tiny outer hair cells in the inner ear that are believed to be the most vulnerable to damage from prolonged noise exposure, and are crucial to normal hearing, the ability to hear soft (or low level sounds), and the ability to understand speech, especially in noisy environments. With exposure to loud noise, the outer hair cells show a reduction in their ability to function, which may later recover. However, it is known that with repeated exposure to loud noise, the tiny hair cells may become permanently damaged.  Recent animal research suggests that a single exposure to loud noise may result in permanent damage to the hearing nerve connections themselves that are necessary to hear sound.

Overall based on objective testing, 72% of teenage concert-goers in the present study experienced either an immediate threshold shift or a reduction in DPOAE amplitude test after the concert.  Following the concert, 53.6 percent of the teens said they did not think they were hearing as well after the concert.  Twenty-five percent reported they were experiencing tinnitus or ringing in their ears, which they did not have before the concert.

Researchers are especially concerned, because in the most recent government survey on health in the United States National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006, 20% of adolescents were found to have at least slight hearing loss, a 31% increase from a similar survey done from 1988-1994.

The findings of the study clearly indicate more research is necessary to determine if the guidelines for noise exposure need to be revised for teenagers.  More research is also needed to determine if teenager’s ears are more sensitive to noise than adults.

“It also means we definitely need to be doing more to ensure the sound levels at concerts are not so loud as to cause hearing loss and neurological damage in teenagers, as well as adults,” said Derebery. “Only 3 of our 29 teens chose to use ear protection, even when it was given to them and they were encouraged to do so. We have to assume this is typical behavior for most teen listeners, so we have the responsibility to get the sound levels down to safer levels.”

Researchers recommend teenagers and young adults take an active role in protecting their hearing by utilizing a variety of sound meter ‘apps’ available for smart phones.  The sound meters will give a rough estimate of the noise level allowing someone to take the necessary steps to protect their hearing such as wearing ear plugs at a concert.

In addition, Derebery and the study co-authors would like to see concert promoters and the musicians themselves take steps to lower sound levels as well as encourage young concert goers to use hearing protection.

The study was funded through the House Research Institute’s national teen hearing loss prevention initiative, It’s How You Listen that Counts®, as part of its broader Sound Partners hearing conservation education program. The institute provides teen prevention information at

Oregon Woman Sues Justin Bieber, Says Loud Concert Left Her With Permanent Hearing Loss

An Oregon woman has filed a $9.2 million lawsuit against pop star Justin Bieber, alleging she suffered permanent hearing loss at his Portland concert two years ago.

Stacy Willson Betts of Wilsonville filed the suit Wednesday in the U.S. District Court. It states that the mother of five sustained the injury after Bieber climbed into a heart shaped gondola and was pulled over the crowd.

The lawsuit alleges Bieber enticed the fans into a “frenzy of screams” by waving his arms, and the sound exceeded safe decibel levels.

The gondola “acted as a sound conductor, creating a sound blast that permanent tly damaged both my ears,” Betts wrote in the lawsuit.

Betts, who attended the concert with one of her daughters, is seeking money for medical expenses, pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. The lawsuit lists Bieber as a defendant, as well as Island Def Jam Records and Vulcan Sports and Entertainment, which owns the arena in which the July 2010 concert took place.

Betts and the record label did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment. No attorney is listed in the court documents.

The lawsuit sys Betts has been seeing ear specialists because of hearing loss; severe tinnitus, or noise or ringing in the ears; and hyperacusis, a sensitivity to sound. Supporting court documents show Betts has not been employed since 2005 and has received disability or workers compensation payments for the past year. They also show she has a spouse or significant other who works at a high school.

“I had no reasonable way to anticipate the gondola could create a sound blast that would permanently damage my ears,” Betts said in the lawsuit. “Experienced promoters, sound engineers, managers and artists are responsible to maintain safe decibels at all times during their events.

Musicians With Hearing Loss

Music can be happy, peaceful, bitter, aggressive – but most of all it can be loud. Very, very loud! Think about the best concert you ever attended. The music was delightful and immersing, but on the way back home you couldn’t manage to get that ringing out of your ears. Now, imagine the stress performance places on the musicians themselves wailing away every night for legions of adorning fans, all the while standing next to mammoth speakers blaring for hours at a time. Yup, it can get loud out there, which can cause significant hearing damage over time for the performers. Yet these musicians managed to create immensely popular, long-lasting music, which in some cases seems like a miracle. Rock and Roll may be may not be noise pollution, but it sure can hurt.

The Hearing Professionals has come up with our list of Top 10 Musicians With Hearing Loss.

10. Neil Young – One of the all-time greatest musicians and songwriters, Neil Young has left an indelible mark on the world of music, twice elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has created over thirty unique albums and contributed to countless more, all the while retaining an unusually consistent quality. With acclaimed protest songs (e.g. “Ohio”), plaintive ballads (“Heart of Gold”), and hard rock masterpieces (“Cowgirl in the Sand”), he has enjoyed unbelievable popular and critical success. Through it all, he has suffered from tinnitus, a common affliction for rock stars, that involves a persistent ringing in the ears, more often than not connected with some degree of hearing loss. In fact, his obsession with softer, acoustic music in the ‘90s may owe itself to this hearing condition.

9. Ozzy Osbourne – John Michael “Ozzy” Osbourne is an English heavy metal vocalist and songwriter, whose musical career has spanned over 40 years. Osbourne rose to prominence as lead singer of the pioneering English bend Black Sabbath, whose dark and hard sound helped spawn the heavy metal genre. Due to the dark style, Osbourne became known as the “Prince of Darkness” and as the “Godfather of Heavy Metal.” Osbourne has achieved multi-platinum status as a solo artist and with Black Sabbath and has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. In 2010 Osbourne was fit with new hearing aids. He later admitted that decades of loud, pounding music caused him to suffer from hearing loss. Today he is a spokesperson for several musician-related hearing loss associations.

8. Phil Collins – Phil Collins is an English singer-songwriter, drummer, pianist and actor best known as a drummer and vocalist for the British rock group Genesis and as a solo artist. Collins has won numerous music awards throughout his career, including seven Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards (winning Best British Male three times) an Academy Award, and two Golden Globes for his solo work. He was introduced into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Genesis in 2010. Collins is one of only three recoding artists (along with Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson) who have sold over 100 million albums worldwide. In 2000 Collins announced he was suffering from tinnitus and hearing loss in his right ear and that he would be retiring from performing. He came back in 2007 for a Genesis reunion tour, a solo album in 2010 and then officially retired in 2011.

7. George Martin – Evidently, not only the musicians themselves are susceptible. Martin, of course, was catapulted to worldwide fame as a producer for The Beatles. Exhibiting heavy influence on the group, Martin has been referred to by various sources as the “Fifth Beatle.” Of course, he shares this ‘distinction’ with about twenty other people. Aside from working with the world’s greatest rock band, Martin also produced hits by many distinguished artists, including Elton John andAmerica. Like Collins, Martin was recently forced to retire because his ears lost the precise touch that made the producer famous.

6. – Critics may not necessarily believe that he is a great artist, but nobody can deny the massive influence has exerted over the musical world, both as a founding member of The Black Eyed Peas and as a producer. He has released highly successful albums, such as Monkey Business and Elephunk, and in the latter utility has produced artists as distinguished as Michael Jackson, Rihanna and Britney Spears. According to, every silence is interrupted by a painful ringing, which drives him to create music at all hours of the day.

5. Brian Wilson – Whereas most musicians on this page owe their hearing damage to loud music over the span of many years,Wilson has had little to no hearing in his right ear since his early days. Despite this condition, he orchestrated one of the most sonically gorgeous albums of all time, The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds.” Such an accomplishment was especially impressive, considering he essentially recorded them with one working ear, a fact Bob Dylan pointed out in his usual acerbic way, by saying, “Jesus, look at that ear. He should donate it to the Smithsonian.”

4. Jeff Beck – Through his fervent desire to achieve the ultimate sound, Jeff Beck has put his guitars through every possible test. His influence is expansive, branching out to heavy metal, electronica and progressive rock. He was ranked as the fourteenth greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone. Here again, years of loud music day in and day out left Beck with a moderately painful onset of tinnitus. It should be noted that Beck got his big break playing lead guitar for the hugely influential Yardbirds. Of course, he replaced a legend…

3. Eric Clapton – How can one start to describe a legend? Let’s just say that Clapton made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, the only artist to accomplish this feat. By catapulting acts like The Yardbirds, Cream and Derek & The Dominoes to worldwide fame, Clapton has made a name for himself as, well, an immortal. Little did we know that he has had to face drug addiction, alcoholism and incessant tinnitus while creating such timeless music. He lived hard, he rocked hard, and now he’s hard of hearing. Much like…

2. Pete Townshend – Who? PETE TOWNSHEND! You know, that guy who composed the first rock opera, made smashing one’s guitar a cultural phenomenon, and wrote some of the most timeless songs, such as “My Generation,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “Pinball Wizard.” A penchant for being the world’s loudest band gave all four members of The Who lifelong battles with hearing loss, an issue most problematic with Townshend. The loud music, in conjunction with pyrotechnic equipment demolishing acts, such as their infamous performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, has given the rock star a debilitating case of hearing loss. Despite this difficulty, he, like every other member of this list, has persisted, continuing to play extravagant live shows.

1. Ludwig Von Beetoven – Who else but history’s most legendary deaf composer? Whereas most members of this list have dealt with frustrating inconveniences, Beethoven was completely shut off from the world of noise by 1814, although he continued creating masterpieces, such as his Ninth Symphony. Historians have debated endlessly over the cause of his deafness, pointing to potential culprits such as the high amount of lead in his body, and his ritual of dousing himself with frigid water to remain awake. Why he lost his hearing may remain a mystery; however, his music will live on forever, heard and enjoyed by every new generation.

Do you know of other musicians with hearing loss that you think should be on this list? If so, let me know. I’m all ears!!

Drugs and Hearing Loss

Aspirin, Viagra and Advil: What do these drugs all have in common, you may ask? These and many other prescription and over-the-counter drugs are known as Ototoxic medications that can cause hearing loss. Ototoxic drugs – literally meaning “ear poisoning” – can lead to a variety of ear-related health problems such as permanent pr temporary hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness, hypersensitivity to sounds, pressure in the ears or balance issues. While there are over 200 Ototoxic drugs on the market today, many people are unaware of the side effects these drugs can have on their hearing capabilities.

Many drugs that we call “Ototoxic” are widely used, such as Aspirin (40,000 tons are consumed yearly worldwide). Sadly, some health care providers are either ignorant of this information or otherwise neglect to mention it when prescribing medication. Let’s face it, as consumers we need to know the facts. Here is a list of the usual suspects:

 Medication that can cause temporary damage (reversible once intake stops)

  • Salycilates: for pain and heart conditions (e.g., Aspirin, Acetaminophen)
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: for arthritis and other pain relief (e.g., Advil, Voltarin)
  • Quinine: used for Malaria treatment
  • Loop Diuretics: for certain heart and kidney conditions
  • Sildenafil: for erectile dysfunction (e.g., Viagra)

Medications that cause permanent damage

  • Aminoglycosides: powerful antibiotics (e.g., Gentamicn, Streptomycin)
  • Chemotherapy drugs: for cancer treatment (e.g., Cisplatin, Carboplatin)
  • Strong pain relievers: (e.g., Hydrocodone in conjunction with Acetaminophen)

Even if your mediation does not appear on this list, it would be a good idea to ask your doctor if what you are currently taking could be considered Ototoxic.

Reading the Signs of Drug-Induced Hearing Loss

A large part of the danger of Ototoxic medications is that people either fail to recognize the symptoms right away, or else attribute them to something else. Ototoxic symptoms can occur even in those who have no previous hearing problems. However, they are usually worse for people already suffering from Sensorineural hearing loss. In both cases it depends on how long you have been taking the medication and in what quantities. If you are currently under any of these medications, simply be aware of any changes in your hearing capabilities. If you are beginning a treatment and require chemotherapeutic medications, for example, make sure to have a audiologist record a baseline of your hearing so you can compare any deterioration in your hearing.

As information about Ototoxic drugs is not always readily available, it’s important to read up on new research in the field. Or, you can learn more about hearing and hearing loss by contacting The Hearing Professionals at (414) 332-3377.

Don’t Get Burned: Stay Away From Ear Candles

This past week I saw a woman in her mid 40s for an audiometric evaluation. She was complaining that after a recent trip she felt as if she had lost some of her hearing. When I checked her ears, I was shocked to see what appeared to be … drippings from a candle?

I asked the patient what happened and she told me that while on vacation in Florida she and her family went to a street fair. One of the booths was promoting ear candling as treatment for a variety of conditions, including ear wax buildup, hearing loss, sinus infections, colds and soar throats. The woman paid $45 to have someone stick a lit candle in her ear to help her ailments.

Having a lit candle in your ear sounds pretty dangerous, right? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, think so too and are warning the manufacturers of these devices, issuing injunctions and seizing shipments.

These “candles” – hollow cones that are about 10 inches long and made from a fabric tube soaked in beeswax, paraffin, or a mixture of the two – are being marketed as treatments for numerous health conditions. Marketers of ear candles claim that the warmth created by the lit device produces suction that draws wax and other impurities out of the ear canal.

The FDA believes there is “no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit” from their use, said Dr. Eric Mann of the agency’s Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices. He adds that some manufacturers claim their products are appropriate for use on small children.

According to Mann and the FDA, ear candling – also called “ear coning” and “thermal auricular therapy” – exposed the recipient to risks such as:

  • Starting a fire
  • Burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear
  • Injury to the ear from dripping wax
  • Ears plugged by candle wax
  • Bleeding
  • Puncture to the eardrum
  • Delay in seeking needed medical care for underlying conditions such as sinus and ear infections, hearing loss, cancer, and temporomandibular joing (TMJ) disorders. (TMJ disorders often cause headache and painful sensations in the area of the ear, jaw and face).

Ear candling is not a safe or effective way to remove ear wax and debris. In fact, wax is actually beneficial to our ears and body. It protects the ear and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. If you do experience excessive wax you should talk to your doctor about safe wax removal options. Typically these methods will include a visit to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or to an audiologist such as at The Hearing Professionals.


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