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Can eardrums be affected after one hears a firecracker burst up close?

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Posted on Thu, 28 May 2015
Question: Hi, I have a question for an ENT specialist. I am a music professional. I am working as a sound engineer in a music studio and my ears are my most precious tool. I am extremely cautious when it comes to my hearing: avoiding loud environments, wearing earplugs every time I get stuck in one... But one can not protect him self from the things he doesn't expect. Yesterday I was sitting in a coffee shop beside a barely open window when someone outside the coffee shop threw a firecracker. I don't seem to have any of the symptoms of a hearing loss, but I would like to know if a hearing loss is to be caused by this kind of acoustic trauma would it be sudden and obvious, unlike the gradual hearing loss caused by a prolonged exposure to the loud noise? The question would be: from what I read it seems that a loud impulse either causes a hearing loss (and if it does, it's sudden and obvious), or it doesn't at all. In other words: if a loud impulse doesn't damage your hearing instantly and obviously, it doesn't damage it at all/ it remains untouched. Is it so?
I thank you in advance for your reply
doctor
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
A Pure Tone Audiogram is required.

Detailed Answer:
Hi,

Thank you for your query.

1. The ear has a protective reflex to stiffen the oscillator chain if a loud sound is heard. This acoustic reflex normally protects the ear. There is , however, a 80 millisecond lag.

2. If the Eustachian Tube is functioning properly, the blast air wave also does not damage the ear. This is only for very close explosions.

3. It is always possible that no damage has occurred. If you want to confirm this, get a PTA ( Pure Tone Audiogram) done.

4. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL )usually occurs in the 4kHz to 6kHz frequencies.

5. There can be a temporary threshold shift in hearing for up to 72 hours after exposure to loud noise. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss ( SSNHL ) is defined as more than 20-30 dB loss in at least 3 contiguous frequencies. Hence you have to deal with NIHL and not SSNHL.

6. Upload the PTA and eardrum examination report.

I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any more questions I will be available to answer them.

Regards.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Follow up: Dr. Sumit Bhatti (5 hours later)
Hi,

Thank you for your kind reply, I find it very informative and useful.
However, it seems that I failed to ask the question successfully. The question is: from what I've read about hearing loss and how ear works I understand that a loud impulse (explosion) would either cause a sudden and very obvious hearing loss, and if it doesn't, that means that it made no harm at all (in other words: there is no possibility that that kind of noise causes a small amount of hearing loss - it either damages it, or it doesn't, there is no gray area; unlike the hearing loss that is caused by a prolonged period in a noisy environment). Do I get this right?

I thank you in advance for your reply.

doctor
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti (1 hour later)
Brief Answer:
The PTA will confirm that.

Detailed Answer:
Hi.

Thank you for writing back.

1. Yes, it is possible that there is no damage. The PTA will confirm that.

2. There is no way to predict what kind of hearing loss, if any, results from such an incident.

3. NIHL can happen suddenly or gradually. There can also be a Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) in hearing that recovers in 72 hours.

I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any more questions I will be available to answer them.

Regards.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
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Answered by
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Dr. Sumit Bhatti

Otolaryngologist / ENT Specialist

Practicing since :1991

Answered : 2662 Questions

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Can eardrums be affected after one hears a firecracker burst up close?

Brief Answer: A Pure Tone Audiogram is required. Detailed Answer: Hi, Thank you for your query. 1. The ear has a protective reflex to stiffen the oscillator chain if a loud sound is heard. This acoustic reflex normally protects the ear. There is , however, a 80 millisecond lag. 2. If the Eustachian Tube is functioning properly, the blast air wave also does not damage the ear. This is only for very close explosions. 3. It is always possible that no damage has occurred. If you want to confirm this, get a PTA ( Pure Tone Audiogram) done. 4. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL )usually occurs in the 4kHz to 6kHz frequencies. 5. There can be a temporary threshold shift in hearing for up to 72 hours after exposure to loud noise. Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss ( SSNHL ) is defined as more than 20-30 dB loss in at least 3 contiguous frequencies. Hence you have to deal with NIHL and not SSNHL. 6. Upload the PTA and eardrum examination report. I hope that I have answered your query. If you have any more questions I will be available to answer them. Regards.