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I'm suffering from tinnitus. In my case, this is a constant, high-pitched whine. The volume is insignificant when I'm relaxed in quiet surroundings, but stress and loud noise can instantly increase the volume to an intolerable level. It's a torture one can't escape from.

You can probably imagine that holding a crying infant in my arms (to get him to sleep) isn't helpful for my ears. I have begun to use foam-rubber ear plugs at home but they aren't very comfortable. High-quality wax ear plugs are exceedingly efficient; they make me practically deaf which isn't helpful either, in this situation (but very good with power tools).

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I'd like to hear suggestions or experiences about what works in this situation—besides handing the baby over to my wife. My goal is to reduce or remove the higher frequencies but not completely disable my hearing.

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Have you tried the foam ear plugs that are shaped more like a golf tee? For me they are a little more comfortable. –  balanced mama Feb 2 '13 at 0:38
    
@balancedmama Yes I have some of those too but the combination of them being narrower and longer makes them very uncomfortable for me; as if they're poking my ear drum. But their softer material is nicer than the pictured yellow ones that I currently use. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 2 '13 at 7:41
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4 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm a drummer and recently purchased some moulded silicone ear plugs to protect my hearing whilst playing in bands. Yes, (most!) bands sound different to infants, but it's a similar problem. I don't see any references to this type of protection in the answers here, so I thought I'd post.

I bought a product like this one (pictured below). Some white material was syringed into my ear at my appointment. This was left in for about 10 minutes until it set hard, and then removed and sent off to be used as the basis for making the actual silicone ones. This process wasn't as nasty as it might sound: actually the 10 minutes of near complete silence (whilst the cool material was setting) was very pleasant!

Custom moulded silicone ear plugs

The custom moulds mean they are quite comfortable to wear. I had a choice of filters: 9, 15 or 25dB (for relatively quiet orchestras through to loud rock bands respectively). I like them because they don't colour the sound I hear -- it's just quieter. But I imagine it is possible to get filters that attempt to minimise your tinnitus.

They are expensive, but they are comfortable and they don't disable your hearing by any means.

I would suggest finding and talking to a specialist in hearing protection, particularly someone that knows how to deal with tinnitus. I'm in the UK, and was helped by Musicians' Hearing Services via the Musicians' Union, but here there are also companies serving the "workplace noise" market (eg lots of information at soundadvice.info), which might be more relevant than something specific to music. That's all rather UK-specific, but I expect similar services exist in Austria?

Edit: added picture and some more links.

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For that matter there are several electronic shooter's ear protection that provides hearing ability with the 85 db reduction when a gun shoots. And yes, a baby crying can be pretty close to a gun going off near your head. The big advantage is it is designed specifically to hear people talking (like the range master) and yet immediately protect the ear when a sudden loud noise occurs. –  SASS_Shooter Feb 5 '13 at 21:15
    
This is a very interesting suggestion! There's a hearing-aid specialist in my town that I know offers something like this and I'll go ask for a quote. I'll accept this answer because custom-made plugs make sense for a variety of situations this idea is the one most suitable to me because of the tinnitus. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 6 '13 at 19:43
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You can try holding the baby with his head not so close to your ear. My sensitive ears are one reason I don't like the over-the-shoulder position that's so popular. Try experimenting with some positions more on your lap. A couple of feet can make the difference between pain and mere discomfort for me. My favorite position is with the baby prone across my lap with his cheek resting on my forearm. People say it looks funny, but it's very comfortable for both of us.

If that's not sufficient, you might want to try the ear muff style of hearing protection. That's what I use for shooting, and for me at least, they are much more comfortable than the in-ear kind, not to mention faster to put on. You can get electronic versions that have a built-in microphone that plays normal sound levels through headphones but suppresses loud noises. These are very comfortable because you don't have to strain to hear normal conversation, but you still get protection from painfully loud noises.

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My recommendation would also be ear muffs, they are what I used. I had to keep a pair in the nursery and wear them when changing diapers. Electronic ones cost around $60, but mine are a simple pair that cost about $20.00. I do recommend buying them from a store where you can try them on though. You may need to wear them for extended periods of time and will want to make sure they are comfortable. –  Dave Nelson Feb 2 '13 at 4:50
    
Actually, holding the baby on my shoulder is the least loud position because his mouth is behind my ear and facing away from me. Any other position (in my lap, in front of my chest, etc.) is simply too close because he is facing me. Over-ear muffs would certainly be effective (especially if they've got active noise canceling) but I don't think the wife would approve. And it will make me look like one of those dork dads who can't put a diaper on without using half a roll of gaffer's tape! :-) –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Feb 2 '13 at 21:41
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I've used earplugs from the local pharmacy, a model that has three rubber membranes. Better than foam ones. I use the same when rehearsing with my band

Also, i mainly used them in one ear (the bad I've), and kept my daughter on that side.

It gets better as they get older, both because they cry less and because you will get more sleep and rest. I've found that my tinnitus is very stress related and the first 18-20 months as a parent ARE crazy.

She's almost 2 years now, and it's only occasionally that she screams near my ears do they hurt.

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You should buy ear muffs. They are comfortable, cute and will help you to protect your ears.

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