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In-ear phones dangerous?

post #1 of 45
Thread Starter 

I have been advised against putting anything at all into my ears, especially something like in-ear phones, which would reside within the canal for extended periods of time. My girlfriend's father, a doctor, and my girlfriend, a med student, both tell me NOT to get the etymotics I desperately want. I couldn't find any discussion on this topic--has anyone heard the same about these phones? Can't remember the medical details--I'll try to post them later.


post #2 of 45
I have met people who are super paranoid about ear infections with ear plugs. Of course in ear phones are dangerous when driving, jogging in a dark park late at night, etc.

A user here once posted the possibility of the plastic tips destroying your eardrum if jerked out quickly with a tight enough seal.

Please share their concerns if they are different from these, and not the usual tinnitus related warnings.
post #3 of 45
I'd be interested in hearing what their objections to canal phones were also.
post #4 of 45
I was the dumby who misunderstood someone else's posting and spreaded the rumor that he busted their ear drum with a quick removal of an ear phone. Although it might be possible, I believe its unlikely.

As long as you keep the SPL (sound pressure level) low, you shouldn't have any problems with ety's. The ety's isolate and discourages a person from cranking up the volume to drown out outside noise.

Here is a link to some literature about hearing damage related to headphones.
post #5 of 45
I doubt it's as dangerous as people make it out to be. For one thing, if you ever use earplugs, you should experience the same perceived dangers pulling them out as you would with canalphones. As mentioned before by the Ety or the Shure rep on the board here (I can't remember which one), that canalphones are designed to equalize pressure inside the ear, even to the point that wearing them on airplanes helps your adjust to air pressure.

I've experienced this myself. On my last two plane trip, I wore my Shure's the entire way... didn't explain any usual "pain" that I get during ascend and descending of the plane.

People who design canalphones are very, very wary of hearing preservation. They design them to protect musician's ears. On that note, many, many musicians constantly pull and put the plugs back into their ear during the middle of a performance.

Personally, I think it's pretty old fashioned to have so many reservation over a technology that's not only been proven to preserve hearing (if used correctly), and has been used for more than a decade (at least, I don't know exactly how long.. since.. 1970's?.. hm?)
post #6 of 45
I was advised by an ontalaryngologist, and an audiologist from Etymotics that there is nothing intrinsically dangerous with in-the-canal phones. (I have tinnitus and hearing loss in one ear and was concerned about exacerbating the problem(s).)

Assuming reasonable hygene, injury to the ear comes from listening at high volume and this can come from any type of headphone. What's too loud? If it's uncomfortable, it's too loud. If you want to get a better sense of what this is in decibels, have a hearing test done and ask the audiologist to play a sound at various decibel levels so that you can "mark" the upper limit of safe listening.

I've had a pair of ER-4Ps for about 6 months and find that, because of the isolation I'm listening, at about half the volume I used to without compromising the listening experience.
post #7 of 45
By the very fact that canal-phones tend to block a significant degree of external noise, you tend to listen at lower volumes than with "traditional" headphones.
post #8 of 45
Great, wait till I tell Grandpa that his in-ear hearing aid is going to make him deaf!!!
post #9 of 45
Wearing Ety's (at reasonable sound levels) isn't much different from wearing earplugs, as long as you keep them clean.

Thousands of people have to wear earplugs for work for hours a day, if there was something unhealthy about that, it would be known and documented, I'm sure there must be some studies...
post #10 of 45
This is my own personal experience, it obviously doesn't happen to everybody, but after listening to Ety's my eardrums hurt. They had slight pain. I always had a shallow insertion.

The canals had a different kind of pain. A very slight soreness.

Once on a flight, I inserted my Ety's in mid air and fell asleep. when we landed and I woke up, I had intense pain in one ear. It had not gone in any farther. I still think it had something to do with pressure, and me not being awake to swallow my spit and do that slight ear-pop thing.

And they don't have bass impact and are too analytical, but that's another story...
post #11 of 45
Well Ive used mine for about a year now, and I haven't had any problems with them. My hearing is just the same as it ever was, and I never had any ear infections. Of course, I make sure to keep my ears clean and to clean the foamies and silicone tips. Personally, I have never heard of any health concerns when it comes to Etys. I actually think they are safer than most cans because of their isolation.
post #12 of 45
I have tinitus and this is exactly the reason why I just bought some canal phones. I thought isolation would allow me to use lower levels. Currently I am running my iPod at 25% of it's volume according to it's meter. When using regular earbuds I would have the volume at just under a 50%. My question would be, however, is the tighter seal/encloser creating SPLs equal to those of a leaky seal? Is it all relative? I'm going to have to experiment to see if my tinitus is exacerbated by canal phones. After one day's use, it appears that the use of canal phones is a bit less irritating that looser fit earbuds driven to a higher level. I'm not sure yet, however, and I'll post my findings. Kinda hate experimenting on my own ears, though.
post #13 of 45
Here is my experienec so far with my ER4-Ps and getting some tinnitus.

When I first got the Etys, I used the flanged tips and, due to the size of my ear canals, they went in very deep, including some of the black tube of the actual earbud. The result, due to me having some earwax already in my ear (but not causing any problems) was that the flanged tips compressed the wax against my ear drums. I then started getting muffled hearing, a ringing in my head and I also got a slight infection in the left ear. All this was coupled with getting a bad cold at the same time.

I have since had my ears syringed and the ringing is still there. I have seen an ENT surgeon and he did many tests. Both ears are clear of wax and any infection, and my right ear is fine in all tests. My left ear has a drop off at very high frequencies, but I am not sure if I couldn't hear them due to hearing the ringing instead. Both ears are asessed as being within the limits for a man of may age (45).

The upshot is that the ENT surgeon reckons the tinnitus will go and that it is not caused by any exposure to excessive sound but more to the irritation to the inner ear caused by the wax, cold etc.

So why am am writing this? Well, two pieces of advice for anyone contemplating using in canal phones.

1. Get your ears syringed before inserting anything, because you can get tinnitus from aggravating the ear drum through compressing wax against it. Remember, tinnitus is a condition and there are many causes and types. I am hoping mine is temporary from the combination of all that happened to me, but the wax compression definitely started it off.

2. Use very low volumes when using Etys or similar. You will find that with a good seal, and after the first few minutes, the volume will be very audible. On an iPod, 25-33% is all you need. I burned my Etys in and even at this level I can get excellent sound with defined bass.

Anyway, hope this helps some of you avoid any problems. In canal phones are the nearest you will get to plugging your head into the sound, and they are worth the effort to use properly and sensibly.

post #14 of 45
i found if i don't keep the ety tips clean, i'll usually end up with a slight earache and a flushed feeling ear. here's something that helps a lot:
cleaing and wetting etymotic canalphones

instead of "lick and stick" when inserting ety's to get a good seal, i use "purell instant hand sanitizer". it is a 2oz bottle of sanitizing gel that i can put on the tips that (1) sanitizes them and (2) lubricates them in one step. even if you do not apply it the next time, there is usually a little dried gel that activates (gets slick again) when you insert the canalphones. the bottle is pocket sized, only 2 oz.

the active ingredient is ethyl alcohol 62%. i remember reading a post from dr. wilson (etymotics research) who said that all ety tips (except perhaps foamies) can be cleaned safely with alcohol.

be careful not to let the gel get into your ety filters. keep it on the outside of the tips only.

post #15 of 45
Good idea to sanitise the tips. I use the yellow foamies and every time I remove them I use a Sterrit sterilising square (the sort that a doctor rubs on your skin before an injection) to kill germs and clean the foamie.

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