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Focal Utopia and Tinnitus

  1. feddar
    I’ve read quite a lot on head-fi.org about both the Utopia and Tinnitus. I wasn’t sure where to post my question, so I decided to start a new thread. I hope that was an appropriate decision. Sorry it is so long.

    I’ve had tinnitus since my teens. I was one of those guys with his head in the speaker at clubs. I’ve always known I was paying for that when I had constant tinnitus over the years. An ENT and audiology assessment showed no hearing loss at all. In fact, I’ve got better than average hearing. But the tinnitus is always there. A little hyperacusis, but otherwise no issues, no bother.

    My mother has tinnitus, and my father has significant hearing loss.

    I’ve enjoyed listening to music using not-so-good headphones since my club days. Having matured and accepted the dangers, I have been very aware of keeping the volume low. When I turned 50, I decided to splurge and get a set of real headphones, before my genetic predisposition takes hold.

    I got the Audioquest Nighthawks for the comfort and excellent sound. The semi-open-back format was a first for me, and was a great change. I also got a Chord Mojo. After listening on low volume for 2 months, I noticed my tinnitus getting worse. A LOT worse. I stopped using them, and it didn’t get better.

    Since then, I’ve had more audiology, ENT, and family doctor appointments. No hearing loss still. MRI and CT showed nothing. 4 different medications did nothing. Nasal flushing and sprays - nothing.

    After 2 years of investigating and trial therapy, no change. Just acceptance.

    Now, I’ve noticed that listening with the Nighthawks do make it worse, even at low volumes. Stress makes it worse. Teeth clenching (I have that big time) makes it’s own tinnitus sound. Relaxing and meditation makes it better.

    So, I love the Nighthawks but they hurt me (maybe). Things are going well otherwise. My very supportive wife suggested I get the best headphones I can find and hopefully that will help. After searching for, reading about (thanks, head-fi!) , and listening to many high end headphones, I settled on the Focal Utopias. I pulled the plug and dropped $5k Canadian (incl tax). Comfortable and sound great! I love them!

    My new pair, however sound different from the store version. I am told than it takes a while for the burn in to settle. The midrange seems thin, and the high end a bit abrasive. I hate to say my Nighthawks sound better although the open Utopias feel better for my ears. I can’t wait for the burn in...

    Now, after reading about tinnitus (again, thanks head-fi) quite a bit, I have decided to try notch therapy. The Tinnituspro app has not been upgraded, so it no longer is available. The others don’t seem right to me. So I’m trying my own notch therapy.

    I’ve hooked up a Behringer DEQ2496 to an iMac. Optical digital in, optical out to the Mojo. I’ve used the GEQ to notch, and the PEQ to deepen the notch. I can only seem to get a 15db drop. I cannot get a real notch. Still way better than what I’ve see on the iPhone apps. I also boost above and below the notch by 10db, as described in a paper I found about the therapy (they boost 20db). Pink noise from the DEQ2496 works, but I’ll be using music. My tinnitus seems to be 3 frequencies at 9500hz, 10300hz, and 11300hz. So I’m notching 8000 to 1200hz.

    Of course, my tinnitus is worse now, with all the testing and listening to many headphones and test tones.


    Wow, that’s a lot of info. Sorry. Here are the questions:

    1 Do you think the Nighthawks can cause tinnitus at low levels?
    2 Would the Utopias have the same problem?
    3 Would the notch therapy negatively impact the Utopia burn in?
    4 How long should the Utopias take to burn in?
    5 Is there a better way to get the notch in the music?
    6 Would the Behringer, using optical in and out, corrupt the sound when in bypass mode (for regular listening)?


    Thanks for reading. And even more thanks if you answer.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
  2. boomhaur
    I don’t have much advice for what your asking sadly just some things I’ve learned from working in a loud work environment all day. I have above average hearing and mechanically my hearing is fine but after having my current job I know get tinnitus if I’m exposed to loud noises for a little while. So here are some ways I counter it.

    World is a heck of a lot noisier than you think, carry ear plugs all the time. Simplicity and vigilance will go a very long way. You can buy a pack of ear plugs with a metal holder to attach to your keychain for a few dollars. I would personally swap the normal foam ones you edc with the push in foam so you can get a seal quicker even if it’s not as good good as the normal rolling ones that take time to do. Than another spare set in your car and spouses car and around the house will go a long way too.

    Hocks noise breakers, I would highly recommend buying some. Basic premise is loud noises over roughly 80decibels are not allowed through the special opening but lower volumes, especially speech enters more easily. Works especially well for most sounds, and probably knocks down most to well below that but one or two frequencies I learned comes in louder than others but probably at the 80decibel markets . These are good all around ear plugs, especially for movies, concerts, sporting events, where you still want to hear what’s going on. Surefire makes foam ones which I would highly recommend or going the custom route. I’ve gone through multiple tri flange versions from them and others and getting a good seal was not happening and after seeing how fast I go through them on 8-9 hour days with the foam tips I got the custom pair which is superior to any other hearing protection I’ve tried for fit and isolation.

    Look into how to properly use ear plugs if you never have your probably using it incorrectly. Buy several types and sticks with what works for you.

    Also a decibel reader and check around the house and learn how loud certain things are your around frequently. One guy on another forums had his brother bring some audio testing equipment over when his tinnitus acted up when he built his new computer and discovered it was pushing a high amount of noise just outside what they could hear when the pc was turned on. Not expecting that, but I’m expecting you to be surprised at certain things, I know I was when I learned my work environment exceeded I think it was 110decibels at times and it wasn’t a particularly noisy day. And my music volume was around 75 decibels but got lowered by the time I heard it through my ear plugs. Than you probably be surprised at the noise level of driving on the freeway with the windows down.

    Questions 1-2: Lots of things can trigger tinnitus as you have already discovered, no one can answer this sadly only trial and error.
    Uestions 3-4: I question whether or not burn in exists, if it does exist though the difference is so minute that we can’t really confirm nor deny it. So it’s doubtful it will have impact on whether or not it trigger your tinnitus.
     
    dontfeedphils likes this.
  3. feddar
    Thanks for the suggestions. I really am quite aware of loud sounds. I was amazed at how loud the blender was (for morning smoothies). I got a cheap decibel monitor, and that confirmed it. I use earplugs with it’s use, as well as with vaccuuming, sawing, drilling, etc.

    As for burn in, I certainly hope it is real. Otherwise the Utopia I got are not the same...

    So far, the notch therapy is helping. I find an appreciable diffirence after using it for an hour, with the improvement lasting several hours. I’ll stop experimenting, and concentrate on using it with the Nighthawks. I’m reserving the Utopia for just listening, in case there is an issue with using notched music on them. Any thoughts about damaging them with notched music?
     

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