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Westerly

Are Earplugs Dangerous to Use in Freefall?

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I've seen several people use ear plugs with open face helmets. I always figured that was a risky move. The idea being that an ear plug is intended to block air from entering your ear which means when you're at 15k and the pressure in your ear is low, you could theoretically risk serious damage if you get down to 3k and allow an instantaneous pressure change. I figure it's like SCUBA diving down to 25' with your figures in your ears tightly and then quickly pulling them out.

Of course I probably dont know what I am talking about though. Just a theory. ;)

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Iago

Yes and no.

No, they will not screw up your ears.

Yes, they may prevent you from hearing someone screaming at you under canopy.

Use them on the ride up and take them out on jump run.

Edit: good question, and there are no stupid questions in S&T. I spent many years in manufacturing and skydiving and I believe earplugs should be worn in both pursuits.



What about wearing them on the way down? That's the concern I see. Not much point in wearing them on the way up anyway. I think the idea is to keep the noise low in freefall.

I've felt my ears pop several times in freefall and that's with nothing in them. I would think putting in ear plugs would make that a whole lot worse.

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Westerly

***Yes and no.

No, they will not screw up your ears.

Yes, they may prevent you from hearing someone screaming at you under canopy.

Use them on the ride up and take them out on jump run.

Edit: good question, and there are no stupid questions in S&T. I spent many years in manufacturing and skydiving and I believe earplugs should be worn in both pursuits.



What about wearing them on the way down? That's the concern I see. Not much point in wearing them on the way up anyway. I think the idea is to keep the noise low in freefall.

I've felt my ears pop several times in freefall and that's with nothing in them. I would think putting in ear plugs would make that a whole lot worse.

The point on wearing them in the plane is that continued exposure to loud noises is very bad for your hearing. One load in a Skyvan makes me lose my mind. You do not want to wear earplugs under canopy because it is important to be able to hear someone scream at you.

Ear plugs also will not hurt you in free fall because your ears popping is your inner ear pressure matching your outer ear pressure. As long as you don't have congestion they will achieve equilibrium.

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There are some nicer ones on amazon that block loud noise but let in normal range which I wear for sky vans. I wear them through freefall without any problems. Other people wear earplugs up to altitude and then put them in a pocket for free fall. As long as you can hear your audible in freefall, I don't see any danger in it.

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Check these out, many use them.

http://www.dropzone.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?post=4083263#4083263

Both the ride up and freefall can damage hearing.
People are sick and tired of being told that ordinary and decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I’m certainly not, and I’m sick and tired of being told that I am

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I wear earplugs for up and down on every jump. Just the plain drugstore (prefer purple) ones. I can converse with them on the ground and in the plane, and focus better on the jump. I keep my head on a swivel under canopy, and have never had an issue. If someone is talking quietly, I take them out. But under canopy, they wouldn’t be quiet.

I can do a Valsalva incredibly easily; the ease with which you can clear your ears may impact how well you react to earplugs in freefall.

Wendy P.
There is nothing more dangerous than breaking a basic safety rule and getting away with it. It removes fear of the consequences and builds false confidence. (tbrown)

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I've used foam earplugs my entire skydiving career. They're gas-permeable so one's ears clear normally in freefall. I agree with others that they should be removed under canopy, but with a full-face helmet you're not going to hear a lot anyway - just be heads-up when in the pattern. The earplugs I use are on a plastic cord which I loop through the eye of my jumpsuit zipper tab so they don't get lost.

mh
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"The mouse does not know life until it is in the mouth of the cat."

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I've used good quality disposable foam earplugs with an open face helmet for most of my jumps, for the ride up and ride down.

As markharju says, one's ears still adjust for pressure. Maybe a little more slowly, I dunno, but I've never had an issue.

Hearing under canopy is reduced (so plugs are out for CRW), but I'm ok with the slight added risk. Same I suppose right after landing. But in either case, vision & head-swivelling is the more important tool. (One could argue similar issues about having ear plugs in a noisy machine shop...)

Besides these days with all the full face helmets (which I only occasionally wear), hearing is going to be somewhat restricted anyway.

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i have been using custom earplugs for about 10 years. they are molded to my ears. they are designed for airplane use, as there is a small vent to help ease the pressure pop. i still have to do the plug my nose and blow trick. I used to get headaches from multiple jumps and now i don`t. the dz i jump at is at 3000 ft asl, and we jump at 14k agl. the custom plugs are not cheap but your ears are worth it

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Quote

The idea being that an ear plug is intended to block air from entering your ear



No, they idea is to block noise, not air. Foam ear plugs are not air tight.

18,000 feet is about 1/2 atmospheric pressure. So that would be about 16 feet of water.

Depending on the plane, I wear them for the ride up and take them out before exit. I have jumped them before, without any issues.

Derek V

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Hooknswoop

Quote

The idea being that an ear plug is intended to block air from entering your ear



No, they idea is to block noise, not air. Foam ear plugs are not air tight.

18,000 feet is about 1/2 atmospheric pressure. So that would be about 16 feet of water.

Depending on the plane, I wear them for the ride up and take them out before exit. I have jumped them before, without any issues.

Derek V



Haven't been on DZ.com for a long time so I'm wondering whether anyone in the medical field who also happens to be a skydiver has ever done an impromptu study of hearing loss among skydivers. I'll bet it's a LOT. It's come up from time to time. I enjoy jumping out of airplanes but I absolutely cannot stand all the noise from the aircraft and from windblast, but then I, like a skydiving brother of mine, have a low tolerance for noise. Something about Asberger...B| What's that? Ass-burgers? Is that from the rump of the steer, or did I simply not hear you correctly? :S:D
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"The mouse does not know life until it is in the mouth of the cat."

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Others have answered similar to what I would have said. Adding to that, I do jump with a sealed audio earpiece in my right ear (Flysight device). Wingsuit jumping the decent is slower but still at times there is a bit of pressure on the earpiece after deployment. I can reach in my helmet and un-seat it if it is bothering me.

I have had hearing damage since I was 15 and have tried to protect my hearing since then. At age 60 now and still want to save what I have. You can't get it back.
Instructor quote, “What's weird is that you're older than my dad!”

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gowlerk

***The constant high pitch ringing in my ears blocks out the aircraft and freefall noise.



I can only notice my tinnitus in quiet environments.

My problem is hearing people over the blender running in every room I enter. The only good thing about it is that I prefer blaming my increasing deafness on skydiving instead of age.

Tom Hantack is 14 years older than me and once said "Bob, my favorite thing about skydiving is that every time I wake up with a new ache or pain I don't have to blame it on getting old."

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Two points:

1. Use CORDED version of ear plugs. That way, you can pull them out (by pulling on cord) after your canopy opens. That way you can have normal hearing under canopy. Tuck the cord under the helmet liner, so that it is not exposed to wind in freefall (could bother you).

2. Read this post:

http://www.dropzone.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?post=4122546#4122546

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I think a lot depends on your head and ear size. All my helmets are XS so I have a small head. I religiously wear earplugs on the way up but even then I usually have to pull them out at least once on the way (cheap foam ones) on the way up to clear my ears.

I forgot them once and freefall them and thought my head was going to explode. Freefalling with a head cold was nothing compared to how much that hurt me. So I suspect if you have a big head/ears they will not be so snug to be an issue. But for me it is a big deal.

I have contemplated over the years buying me some fancy earplugs that would eliminate this issues but never have.

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Wearing earplugs during freefall and canopy ride is safer than not wearing them. Yes, hearing is reduced (more on that shortly), but so is mental distraction! The first time I jumped with earplugs (on the ride up and on the jump down), the effect was staggeringly huge! All of a sudden I had MUCH more mental clarity in my head. There's a joke floating around about finding your way in an unfamiliar city (driving a car), and turning down the radio so you can read the signs better. It works, precisely because your brain has less junk to filter out before it gets to the useful sensor data. Same with skydiving.

Sidestep: hearing under canopy is severely overrated anyway. I jump CRW a lot, and even without earplugs under canopy while touching end-cells (i.e. WAY closer than an average freefaller would be comfortable with), it is difficult to understand each other clearly. Rely on vision and situational awareness to prevent canopy collisions, not on hearing.

I personally use earplugs 100% of the time on the ride to altitude, and only when I do CRW I take them out before exit. For anything else (freefall, hop & pop, video, etc.) I leave them in until after landing.

And even with earplugs in, your ability to hear someone shout under canopy won't change drastically. Earplugs are not racists, they reduce all sound equally (generally speaking, but there's some small frequency variability in it). They don't fully block any sound, they just reduce the amplitude. They equally reduce the amplitude of the wind noise, of the other canopy shouting at you, and of your beeper going off. So if a sound (say: your beeper) is loud enough to hear without earplugs, then it will be loud enough to hear with earplugs. Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) is what is important here. As long as you reduce everything to below the pain threshold, you can still hear everything almost as good as before.

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skydiverek

Use CORDED version of ear plugs. That way, you can pull them out (by pulling on cord) after your canopy opens. That way you can have normal hearing under canopy. Tuck the cord under the helmet liner, so that it is not exposed to wind in freefall (could bother you).



Tried it, didn't work. With how deep I insert them (foam earplugs, rolled up when inserting), the cord pulls at them from such a weird angle that I just pulled out the cord, with the earplug staying in my ear.

Plus, I see no reason. I can still hear fine enough under canopy with earplugs in, and prefer to rely on my eyes anyway to prevent a collision.

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IJskonijn

***Use CORDED version of ear plugs. That way, you can pull them out (by pulling on cord) after your canopy opens. That way you can have normal hearing under canopy. Tuck the cord under the helmet liner, so that it is not exposed to wind in freefall (could bother you).



Tried it, didn't work. With how deep I insert them (foam earplugs, rolled up when inserting), the cord pulls at them from such a weird angle that I just pulled out the cord, with the earplug staying in my ear.

Plus, I see no reason. I can still hear fine enough under canopy with earplugs in, and prefer to rely on my eyes anyway to prevent a collision.

Then, you used poorly designed cord attachments, in the ear plugs you bought. Try MOLDEX corderd ear plugs (choose highest NRR33 rating). Almost impossible to detach the cord even on purpose, it is like the cord is "cemented" in the plugs.

The reason I take them out is not only to hear incoming canopy collision. More importantly, it is to hear the what the other jumper is yelling to me AFTER the collision.


.

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I tried corded Moldex, didn't work (couldn't pull the plugs out), and didn't like having the cord. I've been using cordless Moldex Sparkplugs pretty much since finishing AFF during all phases of the jump (except for CRW where I take them out just before exiting). Never had any pressure-related problems.

I'd be interested in any stories about situations where hearing under the canopy was directly responsible for avoiding an incident. I'm sure there have been a few cases, but overall I think the benefits of hearing under the canopy are greatly exaggerated, and by no means balance out the damage done during freefall (if you don't opt for the coded solution).

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The moldex plugs give a SNR rating of 33 dB, I have found a pair of corded ones (use them for CRW, where I can pop them out on exit without worrying where they end up) that have a SNR rating of 39 dB.

And freefall noise is LOUD. Your beeper doesn't sound earsplittingly loud when in the air (where it is pressed against your ear), but if you let it make a test sound on the ground with it pressed to your ear, that sucker will hurt. It's still outputting the same amount of energy.

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