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How much damage did I do to my ears?

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by redryder, May 8, 2018.
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  1. redryder
    I bought a new DAP yesterday, still not familiar with the settings. Turns out I accidentally activated a setting to maximise volume for line out. I had IEMs in my ears when a song BLASTED out of them. I immediately pulled them out, but now my ears are ringing slightly and they also hurt a bit. I'm scared.

    Do you guys think I did lasting damage to my hearing?
  2. sam6550a
    Don't fool around asking us. Get a medical opinion.
    Markolav and castleofargh like this.
  3. castleofargh Contributor
    the risk of damage depends on how loud it was and how long it lasted. without some idea about that, nobody can help you, so I'd very much go with:
  4. ev13wt
    All you can do now is move oxygen through your body, but I'm no Doctor.

    I would not run though, low frequency thumps and such.
    Breathing deeply once every 5 minutes is what I'd do.

    Ear doc that can look for physical damage would be where I'm driving to.

    Sleep. In a quiet environment.
  5. RRod
    See the doctor. Note that if you know the sensitivity of your IEMs and can measure what's coming out of the DAP, you can calculate things out. You can also recreate the experiment but substituting an SPL measuring device for your ears. Even if the doc says you're ok, it might be nice to know it was 110dB going into your ear instead of 130dB.
    Last edited: May 8, 2018
    skwoodwiva likes this.
  6. sam6550a
    In addition to the exam, have doc perform a hearing test. Use this as a baseline, or compare it to a test from before the exposure. If you use it as a baseline, you can be retested in 6 months or so and compare the results.
  7. redryder
    Thanks. The doctor said my eardrum looked fine. I searched Headfi for the calculations but I'm not sure I understand how to do them. The DAP output is 130mW@32ohm, my IEM sensitivty is 112dB and 16 ohms.

    I found a measurement site that said the output is 203mW@16ohm. Is the SPL (Pa) then 112 x 203 = 22 736? Using a sound level calculator website, that translates to 181 dB. Surely that can't be right?
    Last edited: May 9, 2018
  8. castleofargh Contributor
    would help to get the actual specs, like here we don't know if it's per channel(not a big deal), if it's max power at 1%THD or max output(possibly big deal), and for the IEM is it for 1mw or for 1v, or maybe 0.1v for some brands?
    then the IEM itself has a limit, to reach a loudness the diaphragm or blade in a BA driver, must move at a given distance which is of course physically limited.
    but at least if the eardrum is fine, you can assume it wasn't something stupidly loud, and if you only kept it on only for a sec or 2, hopefully it was mostly a scary few days for you. that in itself is pretty good news.

    I'm going to guess and say the DAP is something like a FIIO and you switched to line out setting?

    oh and of course 181dB is unrealistic. :wink:
  9. ev13wt
    Yea, OP, how are you feeling today?
  10. redryder
    I still have the tinnitus so that’s worrying. It hasn’t reduced so I hope it’s not permanent. I never had tinnitus before.

    The DAP is a Shanling M3S and yes it was set to line out max volume. I have no idea if my IEM sensitivity is per mW or v, the specs are not clear. It’s a final audio heaven IV if that’s any help. Single BA driver.
  11. RRod
    Hopefully the tinnitus goes away with time. Did the doc give any prognosis or things to avoid?

    What you did obviously didn't destroy the headphones, so you can always put them right up against an SPL meter and turn the volume full blast with the same material again and see what the meter reads. Not a perfect measurement but will get you ballpark.
  12. gregorio
    Almost certainly. The question is though, how much? It's good you've seen your doctor, however, he/she can only examine your eardrum. You would need more extensive/specialist tests to determine any damage to your aural nerves and there's no real way (AFAIK) to determine damage to your inner ear hair cells. Hopefully, the only permanent damage you've done is to some of your inner ear hair cells at a level which is only marginally more than the natural process of your hairs cells dying/deteriorating. Again AFAIK, tinnitus is still fairly poorly understood and there's no way to know when/if your tinnitus will stop,

    It's a vital lesson that you should never put HPs over or in your ears unless you're certain what they're outputting is at safe level. I had an acquaintance who learnt that lesson much harder than you have, he plugged his HPs into a line level rather than a HP output on a mixing desk and awoke from the coma 3 weeks later, with no residual hearing at all. We always taught students to wear headphones around their necks and then slowly bring them to their ears while the music was playing, to give themselves time to judge the level before the HPs fully covered or were inserted into the ears.

  13. colonelkernel8
    You don't need to be pessimistic...I'm sure, generally speaking, that redryder is fine. This exact thing happened to me when I was building amps (fortunately it wasn't too loud a portion in the song and they weren't in-ears, so I could fling them off quickly). I did hearing tests and it pretty much showed no difference. I don't doubt there was some damage done, but compared to aggregate damage and deterioration over years and decades, it was trivial. My ears were also ringing for a little while. Being an audio nerd, of course, all of the same anxiety was there in spades.

    @redryder I hope you're feeling better. Don't sweat it. It's a portable device, not line level on professional gear, or the +/-15 volt rails on the amp I built.
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  14. colonelkernel8
    That is *insane*. What kind of headphones were capable of output that could do that? Whatever they were, they should never be used by anyone, ever.
    Last edited: May 11, 2018
  15. bigshot
    Man! We really are good at frightening the children!
    rutter and voxie like this.
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