FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SKYDIVING AND YOUR EARS
When you think about skydiving, one of the things that may not cross your mind is hearing protection. This may come as a surprise but skydiving and your ears are highly associated.
Why wear earplugs while skydiving?
In this blog, we will talk about five reasons why you need to add custom earplugs to your jump bag.
The risks associated with modern skydiving have not been adequately described in scientific literature. Previous studies have shown that in the US, injury rates reach 170 per 100,000 jumps with a hospital admission rate of 18 per 100,000. In addition, European countries have also reported similar injury rates, Accidents lead to bruises, lacerations, sprains, fractures, or even worse, death. However, there is a type of injury which cannot be directly seen by the naked eye but may equally be devastating: ear trauma. This includes tympanic membrane perforation, tinnitus, noise-induced hearing loss, ear pain and ear fullness.
One of the injuries that can last for a long time is noise-induced hearing loss. According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, individuals with hearing loss may have difficulty in terms of communication and safety in the workplace. In addition, they may become depressed, socially isolated and prone to accidents.
A frequently overlooked factor in dealing with hearing loss is medication. Some medications may be toxic to the inner ear, which affects hearing, or vestibular organs, which impact balance. Read more about ototoxic medications here.
Turning to skydiving, hearing protection is always essential whether you are an occasional skydiver or a professional one. You may not perceive anything different in your hearing right away but over time, with increased exposure to noise, you will have some kind of hearing impairment.
Here are a few but important things to know about skydiving and your ears:
1. Identify and understand the causes and consequences of noise-induced hearing loss.
In the setting of skydiving, the environment, more often than not, includes roaring aircraft and strong winds. Both of these can become very loud and painful to the ears. If you skydive rarely or maybe just once in your lifetime, then you may not suffer long-term consequences. However, those who participate frequently in this sport are increasingly at risk of symptoms of ringing ears, diminished hearing, ear fullness, vertigo and ear pain. Alarmingly, these could lead to permanent damage.
2. Have your hearing protection ready when you need it.
Having mentioned the hazards of noise exposure while skydiving, it goes without saying that you need to wear some form of hearing protection. Earplugs attenuate sound levels depending on their noise reduction ratings. There are numerous generic earplugs in the market. However, if you want to be certain of the fit and sound attenuation, consider getting custom earplugs. Make sure that you always have these within reach so that you are protected while on the go.
3. Know the importance of equalizing pressure in your ears.
Another common medical complication from skydiving is barotrauma or damage due to changes in pressure. This is usually caused by lack of pressure equalization. When this occurs, the middle or the inner ear may be affected.
Some earplugs have devices that help in equalizing pressure. These will help greatly in reducing barotrauma. A good example of this hearing protection is the Skydiving Filtered Hearing Protection. This has a patented filter that is lightweight and functions as pressure equalizer. This does not give a plugged-up feeling and allows for situational awareness.
4. Jump with a clear head.
Aside from ear barotrauma, it is also essential to be aware of sinus barotrauma. This can lead to bleeding and headaches. A study revealed that mucus membrane inflammation, nasal or sinus polyps, nasal septum curvature and nasal concha hypertrophy are some of the factors which contribute to sinus barotrauma. Obstruction of the sinuses or Eustachian tube creates a difference in pressure which results in pathological symptoms. Hence, before skydiving, you must be aware of any nasal or sinus conditions. Otherwise, you may find yourself abandoning your dive altogether.
As a tip, it would be helpful to take a decongestant a few hours before doing the jump as this would help dry up mucus membranes. However, make sure to check with your physician first before taking any kind of medication.
Another thing that would help prevent pressure differences is dual filtered earplugs. Not only do these protect the hearing but these also prevent the creation of an airspace that could expand and contract during ascent and fall.
5. Practice using hearing protection even on land.
You should protect your hearing on land as much as when you are on air, even more actually. Obviously, people are exposed more to noise on the ground, either at home, in the workplace, or in recreational areas.
After a successful jump, you may find yourself celebrating in a sports bar or in a party. These places can easily get really loud. By using the same filtered earplugs, you can protect your hearing and enjoy the scene at the same time.
Jong, M., Westman, A., & Saveman, B. I. (2014). Experiences of Injuries and Injury Reporting among Swedish Skydivers. Journal of sports medicine (Hindawi Publishing Corporation), 2014, 102645. doi:10.1155/2014/102645
Pillay, D., & Dada, S. (2018). Skydiving: The audiological perspective. The South African journal of communication disorders = Die Suid-Afrikaanse tydskrif vir Kommunikasieafwykings, 65(1), e1–e4. doi:10.4102/sajcd.v65i1.553
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (2003). Noise-induced Hearing Loss. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 45(6), 579–581.
Bosco G, Rizzato A, Moon RE and Camporesi EM (2018) Environmental Physiology and Diving Medicine. Front. Psychol. 9:72. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00072