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http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/med-tech/roller-coaster-hearing-loss?src=rss

 

Roller Coasters and Hearing Loss: It's Not the Noise

Some nausea, a little dizziness and a fast-beating heart—these are the things we expect when we stagger out of the seats of a roller coaster. But as the g-forces and adrenalin levels skyrocket, will increased risks of injury also be part of the experience?

 

A group of physicians from Henry Ford Hospital think so. According to a recent case study of a 24-year old who turned his head to talk to his girlfriend just as the roller coaster plummeted, modern roller coasters may be linked to a common ear injury.

 

When the physicians from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit peered into the patient's ear, they saw major bruising of his ear canal and ear drum, known as barotrauma. Such symptoms are commonly seen in patients who experience hard and fast changes in external air pressure relative to the pressure further inside their ear, such as scuba divers, or IED blast survivors.

 

"We were really surprised by the damage we saw," says Samer Al-khudari, an ear nose and throat surgeon at Henry Ford Hospital. "As the roller coaster technology continues to advance, the concern is that if we're seeing these injuries now then what can we expect to see in the future?" He and Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, Chair of the Dept. of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital are presenting their case study at the Triologocial Society's 113th Annual Meeting in Las Vegas on April 30th.

 

The faster the ride moves and the larger the change in altitude, the higher the force that is applied to the ear, Al-khudari says. So when his patient turned his head to the left as the coaster fell, all that air pressure funneled into his right ear canal, striking his ear drum with a force of 0.6 PSI (or pounds per square inch) or about 180 decibels according to his calculations.

 

In short, his right ear was assaulted by sound pressure levels equivalent to those emitted by a rocket engine or the world's largest subwoofer, the MTX Jackhammer.

 

"We're recommending that you ride roller coasters with your head forward, as they're meant to be ridden," Al-khudari says. "If you're having ear problems it might not be a bad idea to get them checked out." In this particular case, the patient's barotraumas had healed within 72 hours.

 

Roller coasters have come a long way since their humble beginnings as ice slides in Russia 400 years ago. The particular coaster that this patient rode reached speeds of 120 mph within four seconds. Ferrari World's hydraulically launched F1 Coaster, currently under construction in Abu Dhabi, claims to reach 149 mph, making it the fastest in the world.

 

Upon closer scientific examination, the risks from a roller coaster ride might not that big of a deal says Bryan Pfister, a biomedical engineer at New Jersey's Science and Technology University, who recently published a study in the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology on roller coaster-induced head motion.

 

His study found that innocuous activities like plopping down in a chair, or the head thrashing that accompanies pillow fights, are comparable to the assaults of riding a roller coaster.

 

"We are being exposed to very similar insults all the time: sports, pillow fights, plopping down in a chair, getting in the car everyday," Pfister says. "And we're zeroing in on few incidents that are bizarre."

 

"What we're questioning is whether this a real threat to the population or if this is a freak accident."

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Interesting article. I always thought my loss of hearing was caused by female teens screaming their lungs out.

 

But I'm confused by the line where they say he rode the ferrari coaster, which is still under construction.

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^Reread it.

The particular coaster that this patient rode reached speeds of 120 mph within four seconds. Ferrari World's hydraulically launched F1 Coaster, currently under construction in Abu Dhabi, claims to reach 149 mph, making it the fastest in the world.

 

They base all this off one person having a problem. At least the guy at the end of the article was more sensible.

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Interesting article. I always thought my loss of hearing was caused by female teens screaming their lungs out.

 

But I'm confused by the line where they say he rode the ferrari coaster, which is still under construction.

 

The article is saying that the patient rode on a coaster that was 120 mph, they did not note what coaster it was. They only noted the F1 Coaster because it is suppose to be faster, therefore "injuring" your hearing even more.

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I'm almost certain that the coaster that this person was on was Top Thrill Dragster. That's the only coaster I know of that reaches 120 mph in 4 seconds. Apparently the moral of the story is listen to the safety recordings that tell you to face forward and don't ride sideways and you probably won't have any severe problems.

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This is actually funny because my ears are always a bit sore after a day at a park, and I've always wondered why. I've had many problems with ear infections as a kid, so mine are most likely more sensitive than your average person's, but still, that explains it! Interesting!

 

For the record, I ALWAYS keep my head straight, and back/flush against the headrest if there is one. Rarely, if even at all, do I turn my head.

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HOLD TRAIN... This explains why all those little signs say "reaming seated, FACING FORWARD" Oh... I get it now. But really... I know for sure that I have turned to talk to someone, or to look at a friends reactions many many times, and of course countless times on Dragster. I always love watching my friends reactions during the launch. Hmmmm...

~Matthew

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I'm just relieved that this article is about a temporary condition and not about hearing loss! I'm already losing my hearing--I actually have been for a few years, I think. So as a theme park visitor, I was a bit scared to check this out, for fear that my hobby could have a negative effect on this already unfortunate situation. Thankfully that was unwarranted.

 

Now I'll have an extra incentive to keep my head forward and back on the rides. I definitely always try to respect the rules, but on the other hand I don't always pay attention to how my body is positioned at any specific instant--sometimes I look around.

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I could almost see a park using this article as the next advertising gimmick. Something like "Forces man was not meant to experience! Free earplugs with every ride!"

 

Don't let Merlin allow their PR department to see this..well, I guess they've done worse!

 

I already wear hearing aids and get (occasional) tinnitus, so I'm not going to get that het up about this. It's not like I enjoy many launched 'coasters anyway, so my eardrums are safe for now - now, that loud music on the other hand..

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Hmmm Interesting. My right ear does not the hearing of my left ear and I cannot listen through it very well, I wonder if riding coasters do make it worst...lol. I guess I need to watch out for togos, vekomas and bad woodies

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I'm actually kind of glad I found this article being discussed on here. I was visiting a friend that lives out of town this past weekend and we were all eating breakfast at Denny's on Saturday morning when we saw one of those "news tickers" at the bottom of the screen on the CNN news station that was related to this. They know that I'm into roller coasters and they brought my attention to it causing a nice little debate. So when I came home I was naturally curious. But yes, this seems to be more about the situation and not high speed coasters causing hearing damage in general like the headline said. I'll have to inform them of what I found out, as it really made us all curious as to how.

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I love how the statement about this not being a big deal is buried right at the end of the article, well after most people will have stopped reading.

 

Upon closer scientific examination, the risks from a roller coaster ride might not that big of a deal ...

His study found that innocuous activities like plopping down in a chair, or the head thrashing that accompanies pillow fights, are comparable to the assaults of riding a roller coaster.

 

Oh noes, it looks like I may need to stop sitting down.

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Interesting article. I always thought my loss of hearing was caused by female prepubescents (sp?) screaming their lungs out.

 

Fixed.

 

This is a freak accident situation really. 99% of people wouldn't be riding Dragster with their head turned to the side during the launch. I rarely move my head while riding a coaster, even to talk! Why does no one listen to the auto-speil?

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When I went on a weekend of roller coastering in Toverland and Europa Park last weekend, colleques of mine put this same study on my desk, as warning. First I thought this was a bit of nonsense, freak occurances, bizarre accidents. But when I came to think of it:

 

What is the limmiting factor for a roller coaster's top speed without using a wind screen?

 

At certain speeds little grains of sand become eye ball piercing, Pressure differences due to wind rushing over your ears will make you deaf at a certain speed. I think we all agree that you cannot go on-and-on in making roller coasters as we know them (without wind screens) fasster and faster. What is this limit? 120 mph? 140 mph? .... ???

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I could almost see a park using this article as the next advertising gimmick. Something like "Forces man was not meant to experience! Free earplugs with every ride!"

 

I'm sure Thorpe Park is painting the signs and ordering the earplugs right now!

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It's just one case: almost no scientific proof.

 

Some thoughts: when you are riding with your head in the right position there is another mechanism. It's an "airbrush mechanism": if you blow very hard over a small opening/bottle, you'll draw a kind of vacuum inside, so everything will come out. Of course there's a shell around the ear, but still if you're travelling very fast it will not be significant anymore: the eardrum will go the other way and there's probably the same effect medically speaking.

 

There are also "alien bodies" (other than your own human tissue) which can invade the ear and cause an inflammation, especially when there's hardly any protection from a smear-layer on the eardrum which could disappear by way of the "airbrush mechanism".

 

I'm very curious about the real/complete article and especially about their discussion.

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