When you fly a few times a year, you start to notice more and more about how your ears react to the noise and air pressure in the cabin. There are a few things everyone notices, but for someone with hearing loss, they might experience those annoyances amplified.
The things you experience:
Difficulty hearing: Even when the passenger next to you talks as loud as they can, you still have to solely focus on what they are saying in order to understand them.
Tinnitus and muffled hearing: You are not alone when you hear that low-frequency hum in your ears after a full day of flying. Tinnitus is often caused by an exposure to loud noise (i.e. the plane’s engine) and results in a buzzing or humming in your ears. People’s voices sound muffled and it is hard to understand someone’s voice even though they are nearby.
Fatigue: Even after a nap on the plane and two cups of coffee, you still feel mentally exhausted.
The reasons why:
Difficulty hearing: The levels change depending on the size and type of plane, but airplane cabins have been measured to range from 75-120dB. In comparison, a Rolling Stones concert might be 120dB and an average conversation might be 75dB. If it is hard to hear someone, do not be too worried; the sound of the engine is much greater.
Tinnitus and muffled hearing: The sound of the plane’s engine is often marked as hazardous with sounds 85dB or louder labeled as “too loud” (click here to learn how loud is too loud). Research shows that you should not be exposed to these loud sounds for more than eight hours, so if you’re planning a trip across the world, be sure to protect your ears. Overexposure to these loud sounds includes ringing in your ears (otherwise known as tinnitus) and muffled hearing.
Fatigue: “Listener fatigue” is the phenomenon that occurs after being exposed to loud noises for a prolonged amount of time, listeners feel tired, fatigued and even irritable. Sound familiar? Exposure to loud noise in even our daily activities can negatively impact our overall health.
Remember to put the following items on a packing list.
Foam earplugs: You can pick up these earplugs in bulk at any convenience store or drugstore. Great for traveling with a group, these bright orange earplugs can be used once and thrown away.
Custom earplugs: An alternative to the foam earplugs, these custom fit earplugs provide a much higher comfort level than the cheaper foam option.
Headphones/custom earphones: If you’re an avid music listener, these headphones can be used for more than just listening to music. With proper fit and use, these custom earphones are great for reducing the noise of the cabin.
Noise-canceling headphones: These devices can provide a great seal to keep unwanted sounds out but also actively reduce the lower-frequency sounds around you. Beneficial on a plane, these can definitely help you to listen carefully.
Find the best fit to your own needs and remember to always include them on your packing list. And trust us, your ears will thank you.