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A question to veteran IEM users

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Have you guys noticed any hearing loss? I bought a pair of Astrotec AM-40 IEM's which I've been using regularly since like 3 months. I use them mainly with a Samsung MP3 player listening music maybe 2 hours (two 1 hour sessions) - 5 days a week. The volume indicator in the device goes up to 30, and I normally use it in level 3, and for short amounts of time (amazing songs) 9 max. The thing is sometimes recently I've found myself trying to hard to listen what people are saying to me, which before using the IEM's never happened... I hope you guys can give me some advice, thanks


PD: Oh, also sometimes I like to listen some music before sleeping, but somedays I've done like 3-5 hours straight (with minimum volume i.e. 1)

post #2 of 12

No not really.

I use Westone 4R's and never experienced this but my geography teacher at high school 4 years ago once said he suffered from hearing loss due to excessive use of IEM's.

post #3 of 12

Watch your volume levels and always take breaks... Non-stop use can damage your hearing more than shorter, higher volume listening. Just because you "think" your volume levels are low enough doesn't make you safe.

post #4 of 12

Possibly, you're pushing earwax deeper into your ear.  You may need to flush out your ears.

post #5 of 12

I experienced this while getting used to tf10's piercing treble coming from a pair of mid centric's with little treble. Noticed peoples volumes sound very quiet but went away eventually

post #6 of 12

I haven't had any hearing loss issues after 10+ years of using IEM's or headphones for long periods of time most days of the week (at least based on the audio test I take as part of my annual physical).  However, I tend to listen at lower volumes so that probably helps. 

post #7 of 12

Not that it's a long time, but I have been using IEMs for 6 years and haven't experienced loss of hearing.


It's all about making sure you have a comfortable listening volume (for me it's around 40% on my iPod) and taking breaks if you have them in for an extended period of time.

post #8 of 12

Good news: Sound is sound. There is nothing inherent in IEMs that puts you in any unusual danger.


In fact, the isolation of a well-sealed IEM has the effect of lowering your personal noise floor, so you should be able to get a high-impact auditory experience at lower levels. If you're smart and aware and have a good fit.


Here's the daily dosage chart. It's based on the assumption that the rest of your day is all <85 dBA. And, sorry to say, but the NIOSH scale is much more realistic when applied to music (and science).




Obviously, you can't *really* tell how loud you're listening with IEMs (unless you're a Sensaphonics user or a well-equipped audiologist). But we all know about how loud a 100 dB rock concert is. Or a dance club with DJ. In fact, a lot of contemporary Christian churches put on just such a show every Sunday.


So just put yourself in that space and, if necessary, dial it back.


Users of Sensaphonics IEMs and the current Shure SE Series can get actual in-ear levels by using the Sensaphonics dB Check in-ear level analyzer. It measures the dry voltage coming off the source and calculates SPL in realtime based on the impedance of the IEMs in use. It averages levels over time and tells you how long you can safely listen. Pretty nifty tool.

post #9 of 12

I know I should watch out how loud I listen to my IEM's.  On my Sony player I go about half way with the SM3 and that's plenty loud but sometimes I go up to around 18 to 19 and that's really loud plus I use my IEM's up to 8 hours a day sometimes.  Fortunately I haven't experienced and hearing lose or ringing in my ears and I'm getting up there in age (well getting close to 30 now) so I should listen less often and at lower volumes but its hard to when I can use them at work and it makes the day go by much faster.

post #10 of 12

Research at Vanderbilt has shown that musicians have the equivalent of "muscle memory" when setting their monitor volume. So people who are used to screaming floor wedges who switch to IEMs tend to set them at exactly the same volume that they're used to. Like consistently within 0.1 dBA - pretty astonishing, really.


Because a well-fitted IEM offers isolation, the user's personal noise floor is significantly lower. Because your intended audio is no longer competing with so much ambient noise, you can get the same audio impact at lower volume. The problem is that turning it down is a learned behavior. We need to train ourselves to keep volume levels reasonable, and to be aware of exposure time when we choose to listen a high SPLs.


Hearing loss is maddeningly subtle in its onset and progression. For musicians and audiophiles, it's pretty tragic and, in most cases, entirely avoidable. Sensaphonics strongly recommends an annual hearing screening to help catch any issue before it has progressed too much.


Here's a link to some basic info on Music-Induced Hearing Disorders.

post #11 of 12

Heredity also plays into it so not every person will get hearing problems the same when playing too loud.  Just like some people can smoke for 60 years (my mother), and never get lung cancer.

post #12 of 12

Absolutely true. All the more reason not to gamble with your hearing.


Here's another fun fact:


According to the U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, the excess risk of developing occupational noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is 8% using the NIOSH guideline and 25% with the OSHA guideline. (Source: NIOSH Publication No. 980126 )


"Excess risk" is a technical term, defined as the percentage of people in a noise-exposed population who develop a material hearing impairment above and beyond those in a non-noise-exposed population.


Bottom line: Between the two, follow the NIOSH guidelines.

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