Roller coaster linked to ear injury
Careless thrill-seekers risk injuring their ears on high speed roller coasters, it has been claimed.
Doctors in the US have linked a common ear injury to forces experienced on the adrenalin-pumping rides.
The condition, called barotrauma, is caused by rapid changes in air pressure and normally associated with flying, scuba diving and the effects of explosions.
It can lead to temporary hearing loss, dizziness, and painful swelling in the ear.
Barotrauma can be avoided by yawning or chewing gum to equalise pressure on both sides of the ear drum. But this is hard to do while soaring and diving on a fast-moving roller coaster, the researchers point out.
"As roller coasters continue to push the envelope of speed, otolaryngologists (ear specialists) need to be aware of this new cause of barotrauma to the ear," said study leader Dr Kathleen Yaremchuk, from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
"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."
The research, presented at the Triological Society's annual meeting in Las Vegas, centred on a 24-year-old man who developed serious pain in his right ear 36 hours after riding on an amusement park roller coaster.
He was speaking to his girlfriend as the car they were sitting in began to speed up.
With his head turned to the left, his right ear was fully exposed to the pressure-wave generated by accelerating to 120 mph in just four seconds.