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Hearing Loss and Airbags

Paul David Dybala dybala at audiologyinfo.com
Sat Jun 19 09:34:46 EST 1999


Jeffrey Sirianni wrote:

> Greetings,
>
> I saw a patient today for unilateral hearing loss following deployment of
> her car's airbag.  I have done some online searches and have come up with a
> few articles, although most of them are brief letters in journals.
>
> Can anyone provide me with some references on this topic?
>
> Jeff

I found two, one is from a web page listed in the Searchwave search engine
under the keyword airbag.  It gives an "abstract" but does not list the
authors.

#################################
Airbags Can Cause Hearing Loss

                             A high percentage of people involved in vehicle
accidents in which
                       the air bag deploys may suffer from ringing in the ears
or hearing loss.
                             Researchers from the Michigan Ear Institute in
Farmington Hills
                       studied 20 patients immediately after an accident and
then periodically
                       for 18 months.
                             Seventeen of the 20 patients reported hearing loss
or hearing
                       problems after being in a car accident in which the
driver's side airbag
                       had deployed. The hearing loss averaged 10 decibels in
nine of 21 ears
                       tested. Researchers also say four patients had punctured
ear drums that
                       required surgery.
                             "We believe the nerve hearing loss is caused
either from the
                       acoustic trauma of an airbag deployment or from a
pressure
                       phenomenon caused by the contact of the patient's face
or ear with an
                       airbag," researchers say. Their findings were presented
at the American
                       Academy of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery
Foundation
                       meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
########################

The second is an article from medline's PubMed

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg 1998 Feb;118(2):228-34
Automobile airbag impulse noise: otologic symptoms in six patients.
Saunders JE, Slattery WH 3rd, Luxford WM
Hearing and Balance Center/Saint Anthony Hospital, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
USA.

Automobile airbag safety systems have successfully reduced the number of
occupant injuries from motor vehicle accidents.
Unfortunately, airbags are also associated with some inherent risk, including a
high-amplitude, short-duration noise from airbag
deployment. A review of the available research in the automobile industry
indicates that the peak amplitude of this noise may
exceed 170 dB sound pressure level. Despite the increasingly wide application
of airbags in automobiles, there have been no
previous reports of airbag-related otologic injuries. We have encountered six
patients with otologic symptoms that appear to be
related to airbag impulse noise. Five of these patients have documented hearing
loss, one patient reported persistent tinnitus, and
two patients have significant dysequilibrium. Although permanent hearing loss
>From airbag noise appears to be rare, temporary
threshold shifts are probably much more common. It is important, therefore,
that the clinician be aware of the noise associated
with airbag inflation and the possibility of acoustic trauma from these safety
devices.


Paul Dybala, Audiologist
President, Audiologyinfo LLC
dybala at audiologyinfo.com

Searchwave - the search engine for audiology,
hearing loss, and the ear.
http://www.searchwave.com





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