Can Roller-Coaster Rides Affect Your Hearing?

For most people, riding roller-coasters is fun and exciting. But whether you or a loved one enjoys the occasional adrenaline rush, there are a few things you should be aware of. In this blog, we discuss riding roller-coaster rides and the potential hearing health risks as well as offer a few helpful tips for hearing aid users.

Can a Roller-Coaster Ride Cause Damage to Your Ears?

The short answer is yes, but not to worry, you don’t have to give up riding roller-coasters as this does not happen very often. In rare cases, the impact of rapidly increasing speed while riding a roller-coaster can in fact cause damage to the human ear. The increase in air pressure that a person experiences while on a roller-coaster ride, can cause swelling in the ear canal (in one or both ears) and/or eustachian tube blockage, which may cause pain. This is commonly diagnosed and referred to as ear barotrauma, which has also been known to happen while scuba diving or flying in an airplane with uncontrolled decompression.

Case Study

There was a case study in 2010 that found a link between the force of acceleration in roller coasters and damage to the ear that can cause temporary hearing loss and ear pain. The study discussed the treatment of a 24 year old male who suffered ear barotrauma after riding a roller coaster. It was reported that the patient’s head was turned during the ride, and approx. 36 hours after the ride, the male reported feelings of pain and fullness in his right ear. Following a physical examination, they found damage to his right ear, a swollen ear canal and an inflamed eardrum, although the eardrum was not punctured. The male patient did not receive treatment and his symptoms cleared up within approx. 3 days.

Study senior author Kathleen L. Yaremchuk, M.D., Chair, Department of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospital said, “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.” (source)

What is Ear Barotrauma?

“Barotrauma is physical damage to body tissues caused by a difference in pressure between a gas space inside, or in contact with, the body, and the surrounding gas or fluid.” (source) When the external, middle, or inner ear is affected by this, it is referred to as ear barotrauma. But don’t let the risk of ear barotrauma prevent you from enjoying a roller-coaster ride every now and again.

Hearing Aid Tips

If you are a fan of roller coasters and wear a hearing aid, read the following:

  • If the ride involves getting wet, we recommend that you remove and store your hearing aid(s) away safely.
  • When riding a roller-coaster, your hearing aid may get dislodged; so you may still want to remove your hearing aid(s) just for the duration of the ride.
  • If you are not able to remove your hearing aid(s), try to keep your hearing aid(s) away from the full force of the wind and keep your face forward..

Consult with the Hearing Care Professionals at Kenwood Hearing Center

If still have questions or would like to speak with one of our hearing care professionals, contact us today and schedule an appointment at one of our convenient Ohio hearing center locations: Bowling Green, Toledo, or Wauseon.

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