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Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Roller coasters can damage ears

Roller coaster riders are at risk for a common ear injury that can cause temporary hearing loss and pain, a new case study shows.

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Roller coaster riders are at risk for a common ear injury that can cause temporary hearing loss and pain, a new case study shows.

Researchers have linked the force of acceleration in roller coasters with ear barotrauma, which occurs when there's a quick change in pressure between the external environment, the ear drum and pressure in the middle ear space. This often occurs with altitude changes, such as during air travel or driving in the mountains.

Ear popping, dizziness, discomfort or pain are the most common effects of ear barotrauma, but it can also cause temporary hearing loss.

This case study involved a 24-year-old man who suffered pain and fullness in his right ear about 36 hours after riding a roller coaster that reaches a maximum speed of 120 mph within four seconds. Just as the roller coaster began to accelerate, the man turned to the left to speak to his girlfriend, which caused his right ear to sustain the full impact of the rapid acceleration.

An examination showed that his left ear was normal but his right ear canal was swollen and the ear drum inflamed, said otolaryngologists at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. They estimated that the patient's right ear was exposed to about 0.6 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure when the roller coaster accelerated. The patient's symptoms improved within 72 hours.

The study was to be presented at the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings in Las Vegas.

"As roller coasters continue to push the envelope of speed, otolaryngologists need to be aware of this new cause of barotrauma to the ear. Based on our research, we recommend that passengers remain facing forward for the duration of the ride to not let the full impact of acceleration hit the ear," study senior author Dr. Kathleen Yaremchuk, chair of the department of otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital, said in a news release.- (HealthDay News, May 2010)

 

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Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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