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Why attending a loud concert can be 'like a concussion' for your ears

Toronto, August 17, 2018

By Michael Oliveira

A concertgoer wears ear muff-style hearing protection

The biggest Drake fans in Toronto are looking forward to next week and the homegrown hip hop star’s three-night stand in the city. Some diehards will no doubt be catching two or even all three concerts.

But concertgoers who are used to experiencing the muffled hearing that comes after snagging a spot near the stage should think about protection – ear plugs, warns Dr. Jennifer Anderson, chief of the Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“Prolonged exposure to very loud music like at a concert can lead to hearing damage - and over time it can become irreversible,” says Dr. Anderson, explaining that post-show fuzzy hearing is “almost like a concussion of the inner ear.”

The inner ear has two types of hair cells – outer and inner – which help us hear and process sounds and then transmit them to the brain.

Reduced hearing after a concert, also called temporary threshold shift, occurs when the outer hair cells are temporarily battered by loud noise. With a little time, the outer hair cells recover and normal hearing returns.

Permanent hearing damage occurs when the inner hair cells are similarly affected by prolonged exposure to loud sounds – “except they start dying off and they don’t recover that well,” Dr. Anderson says.

It’s especially important to protect young ears at a concert, which is why you often see kids wearing ear muff-style hearing protection at shows. Dr. Anderson recommends parents choose the ear muffs over disposable foam ear plugs.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital with Providence Healthcare and St. Joseph’s Health Centre now operate under one corporate entity as of August 1, 2017. United, the three organizations serve patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education.

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