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Long-term effects of diving on hearing.

Discussion in 'Diving Medicine' started by DocVikingo, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member Staff Member

    5,605
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    I get periodic inquiries on this topic.

    Here's my customary answer, which happily appears to be supported by the very latest research (see below): Diving-related hearing loss is pretty much limited to those who are commercial divers exposed to loud noses and divers who have experienced barotrauma of the ear. The recreational diver who equalizes appropriately and sustains no ear injury does not appear to be at significant risk for SCUBA-related hearing loss or tinnitus.


    1. "Undersea Hyperb Med. 2011 Nov-Dec;38(6):527-35.

    Assessment of the central hearing system of sport divers.

    Hausmann D, Laabling S, Hoth S, Plinkert PK, Klingmann C.

    Source

    Department for Otorhinolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVE:

    To investigate the effect of regular scuba diving on central processing sequences of sport divers who have no history of noise exposure or ear-related accidents using a comprehensive topographic examination of the central hearing system.

    DESIGN:

    Cross-sectional controlled comparison study.
    SETTINGS:

    General sports diving community.

    PARTICIPANTS:

    81 sport divers with a mean of 300 dives each were compared with a control group of 81 non-divers.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:

    The participants were classified into three age groups. Hearing test results were combined for both ears. Examination included brainstem evoked response audiometry (BERA), cortical evoked response audiometry (CERA) and dichotic listening tests to screen for retrocochlear and central hearing disorders. Testing of brainstem latencies was performed in a gender-dependent manner.

    RESULTS:

    BERA showed a pathological extension of the I-V-latency in one diver. Magnetic tomographic imaging ruled out brainstem lesions. No reason for the measured latency could be detected. All other latencies (I-III, III-V and I-V) in both gender groups were within normal limits. No statistically significant differences between divers and non-divers could be detected. Dichotic listening showed no clinical abnormalities in any of the participants, but in the age group 18-29 years divers performed significantly better than non-divers (p = 0.01). CERA revealed no significant differences between divers and non-divers in the age group 18-29 years and 30-39 years, whereas divers in the age group 41-50 demonstrated significantly better test results (p = 0.045) (difference of the means: 4.18 dB).

    CONCLUSION:

    Dichotic listening and CERA did not reveal a significant reduction of central hearing performance in divers. Persistent on-shore BERA wave latency prolongations that were present in one study could not be confirmed in our study group. This first comprehensive topographic examination of the central hearing system of divers showed no abnormalities."


    2. "Assessment of the peripheral hearing system of sport divers.

    Hausmann D, Laabling S, Hoth S, Plinkert PK, Klingmann C.

    Source

    Department for Otorhinolaryngology and Head & Neck Surgery, University of Heidelberg, Germany.

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVE:

    To investigate the effect of regular scuba diving on the hearing thresholds of sport divers who have no history of noise exposure or ear-related accidents. Comprehensive topographic examination of the peripheral hearing system of sport divers.

    DESIGN:

    Cross-sectional study.

    SETTINGS:

    General sport diving community.

    PARTICIPANTS:

    81 sport divers with a mean of 300 dives each were compared to a control group of 81 non-divers.

    MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:

    Participants were classified into three age groups. Examination included microscopic otoscopy, tympanometry, pure-tone audiometry (PTA) including air and bone conduction, speech audiometry and otoacoustic emissions (OAE).

    RESULTS:

    PTA suggested significant differences of the hearing thresholds at several frequencies between sport divers and non-divers in all age groups, although a Bonferroni correction for multiple testing was applied. Interestingly, the results were contradictory. Divers obtained better hearing results in air conduction, whereas non-divers showed better results in bone conduction. Speech audiometry and OAE did not reveal significant differences.

    CONCLUSION:

    There are no published studies of the peripheral cochlear system of divers that have used a combination of PTA, speech audiometry and OAE. All studies suggesting hearing impairment in divers were based on PTA and might have been influenced by a lack of accuracy of PTA. Our results suggest that diving does not adversely affect the hearing system of sport divers. A thorough test battery of audiological methods implying PTA, speech audiometry and OAE may contribute to offer more reliable results to answer the question of whether commercial or military divers are at higher risk for hearing detoriation."
     
    roturner, diveprof and DandyDon like this.
  2. KevinG58

    KevinG58 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Vallejo California USA
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    "Darn honey I thought you said sure I could buy that new wing, must be the scuba diving affecting my hearing..." See it does, even if it doesn't ;)
     
  3. lowviz

    lowviz Solo Diver ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Northern Delaware.
    4,253
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  4. Thalassamania

    Thalassamania Diving Polymath ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives:
    Location: On a large pile of smokin' A'a, the most isolated
    22,159
    2,732
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    Thanks, do I gather the old warnings about "glue ear" were just alarmist?
     
  5. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member Staff Member

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    lowviz likes this.
  6. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member Staff Member

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    Hi Thalassamania,

    This form of otitis media is primarily related to problems with the eustachian tube and is seen primarily in children, although it can occur adults.

    I am not aware of any signficant association with SCUBA per se.

    Regards,

    DocV
     
  7. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest

    # of Dives:
    Location: Santa Catalina Island, CA
    20,886
    3,391
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    Oops... I guess my loss of hearing must be due to age rather than 50 years of diving!
     
  8. DocVikingo

    DocVikingo Senior Member Staff Member

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    OTOH, Wild Bill, I'm not that sure you'd be classified as a "sport diver".

    Regards,

    DocVikingo
     
  9. diveprof

    diveprof Regular of the Pub

    # of Dives:
    Location: Evans, GA (underwater of course)
    1,780
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    My understanding is that scuba diving can affect loss of hearing in the mid-upper range assocaited with the female voice (my story and I'm sticking with it:D- particularly when it comes to scuba gear purchases).
     
    They call me Tater likes this.
  10. squibbs

    squibbs Garibaldi

    # of Dives:
    Location: Vegas
    2
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    Hello, doc. Can you reference information that documents adverse ear/hearing effects on commercial divers and/or heavy repetitive diving?

    Also , Im looking for any information that relates ear infections to barotruamas or vica versa.

    Thanks in advance!
     

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