Joined: Feb 2009
Thanks for the replies.
I thought about the advice people have about not wearing earplugs all the time. I looked into it and found an experiment using guinea pigs where it sounded like they compared earplugs vs. noise. From skimming it the conclusion seemed to be that after an acoustic trauma the guinea pigs with the earplugs had more dead cilia than those exposed to noise. So if I read it right and it applies to humans, then that advice is right, and you shouldn't wear earplugs all the time after, and maybe even do some soft pink noise therapy, because wearing earplugs all the time after an acoustic trauma would lead to more loss.
I've been avoiding wearing earplugs, and taking vitamins and antioxidants. I searched the journals for anything involving acoustic trauma and evidence of improvement and looked to see which chemicals were for sale at local stores. They are: NAC, ALCA, CoQ10, resveratrol, magnesium, vitamin C & E, B-complex, and maybe gingko biloba. The main ones seem to be the NAC, ALCA, and CoQ10 antioxidants, with magnesium, C & E, and B-complex supporting.
I went in today for a hearing test and consultation with ENT doc. The audiologist was nice to talk to, and she said compared to most people my hearing is really good. But the test was limited to 8 kHz, and select frequencies, so it can't describe what I'm actually hearing, only that I'm still able to detect quiet beeps at those frequencies. There was a slight dip, equal in both ears, which was near the top, I think around 6 kHz if I remember right, but still above their threshold for normal. She said this can be indication of noise trauma, and hearing loss not measured by the test.
If you've never had this test before, which I hadn't, you just wear headphones and click a button when you hear the beeping. It goes through a handful of frequencies, beeping at normal volume, then quieter, and quieter. The thing is, I started to feel a rhythm, so I bet I could've cheated and just clicked when I expected a sound and got it right most of the time even if I didn't actually hear it. Then the headphones were replaced with a bone conductive device to send the beeps to the inner ear, which sounds similar.
On visual inspection my eardrums seemed fine, and the doc didn't think the fever had anything to do with the noise trauma. He didn't seem concerned at all, and said I'd have a full recovery. He said short blasts cause a temporary shift, but that I was recovering nicely. He said what everyone else has said, that it usually just takes a day or two, and that's usually how it is with me too. When I asked why it took over a week just for the fullness to go down, and why it's 3 weeks and still not better yet, he said he didn't know, that everyone is different.
I wanted to believe him. He didn't say "it's likely", or "you could", he flat out said I'm going to fully recover. But everything I read said if it's not better within a couple weeks that it's probably permanent, because the trauma creates a situation in which there's damage that results in the hair cells dying. From what I read it sounded like it's possible for some recovery up to a month, but if it's not 100% within days then you'll have permanent loss.
I asked him though how long he thought ears could still heal after, and he said months. He said people come in with their hearing suddenly almost gone, from a virus, and months later it can still be recovering. I said that's nerve damage though, so isn't it different from trauma, where it's cilia damage? But he said it's the same thing, that the cilia are neurological.
I said thank you for the good news, because I truly want to believe him. It's just, part of me doesn't. When I was on stage 10 years ago in front of a huge stack with no earplugs, my ears were recovering days after, but it never fully came back, and I just got used to the dampened kind of sound. I tried telling him this, but the point wasn't communicated well, and after seeing the hearing test seem fine and my eardrums seem fine he just seemed to think I'd be fine.
The ears of someone who works with audio though are not the same as most people. I could detect the tones softly not just because it was physically possible, but because my brain is trained to be able to isolate frequencies and detect subtle variations. It wasn't easy to hear those sounds in the hearing test, I think my brain is just optimized for it so it can still seem to out perform even when it's working with damaged hearing.
It's like if someone is a trained athlete, even with a sprained ankle they're going to seem to out perform most others. But they know their performance is greatly hindered, and they have to do a lot of workarounds to get close to what they could do before. I can draw a picture, or describe in detail all the ways what I hear is garbage. But I can still understand speech, and detect some tones, so to most people it's good enough.
I wonder if that's why he thinks it's "full recovery". If I didn't know better, because my fullness has gone away, and I can hear voices more clearly, I'd think it's recovered. If ENT people work with mostly normal people like that, then that's what they're talking about. But I'm not talking about being able to understand you speak. I'm talking about the full spectrum of audio sounding like my ears are suddenly made of paper, and there's a lowpass filter, with an EQ dipped down on a frequency in the vocal range, and like the overall spectrum was sandblasted to be full of holes and washed out, where lots of frequencies cause distortion, and a compression effect, where highs are brittle and mids are muddy, and lows are missing, and there's just a lot of information absent, where I feel my brain searching for what isn't there, making it difficult to "hear" what I'm trying to hear.
It's completely wrong. Yet, if you don't train in listening to mixes, and tweaking it subtly, then you probably don't notice all the differences. Like how some people can listen to music in $1 headphones and not be bothered by how papery it sounds. I truly wish I could believe, in full recovery, but I doubt. I think people just don't understand, and they get used to that papery sound and think they recovered.
People here know what I'm talking about. They've experienced stuff like it, and pay attention to sound, where they notice any difference. I bet if the ENT knew how that feels he'd not have told me it'd be a full recovery. But who knows, maybe it is just a threshold shift that can change back slowly. Then maybe suddenly all those frequencies missing will come back to life, and be EQed back to normal, where I can hear music again.