Case Study: The Oto Goes to a Rock Show

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One of the major benefits of the CellScope Oto over a traditional analog otoscope is the ability to collect longitudinal data, which is information on the same subject over time. Since all exams taken with the Oto are time stamped, it is possible to go back through the exam history for a given patient and see how the eardrum looks as time progresses. We can see how this would be especially valuable to monitor the evoluation of a disease or infection. This same system can also be used to examine how the eardrum reacts to the progression from opening act to headliner at a rock show.

For this study, our test subject (also the author of this blog post) attended a three act rock show at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco and stood in roughly the same spot for the whole show. The opening act was Xandria (German Operatic Metal), followed by Delain (Dutch Symphonic Metal), and the headliner was Sonata Arctica (Finnish Power/Symphonic Metal). Ear exams were performed before the bands came on and then after each subsequent band to examine whether any noticeable change to the eardrum occurred.

Figure 2- The Subject's Eardrum 19 minutes Before the Concert Started (7:41pm)

The subject’s eardrum 19 minutes before the concert started (7:41pm).

Aside from some excess ear wax, the subject’s eardrum appears normal prior to the start of the show (see above picture).

The opening act, Xandria, played operatic metal featuring very high notes sung by an opera level singer backed with very low notes from the rest of the band, which contained two lead guitars, one bass guitar, keyboards and drums. They played for approximately 30 minutes and the subsequent ear exam shows that the eardrum had no visible change after the opening act.

The Subject's eardrum after the opening act (8:33pm).

The subject’s eardrum after the opening act (8:33pm).

The second act, Delain, is a symphonic rock band with a female vocalist as well as a dreadlocked bass player. The band features one lead guitar, one bass, dual keyboards played by one person and drums. The second act played for approximately 45 minutes. All three bands used the house speakers which made for quicker setup times and helped control for variations in frequency output of the sound system between bands. After the second act, some redness started to be visible on the malleus but the eardrum on the whole still looked relatively normal.

The Subject's eardrum after the 2nd band (9:38pm).

The subject’s eardrum after the 2nd band (9:38pm).

The headliner, Sonata Arctica, is a symphonic/power metal band with a male vocalist, one lead guitar, one bass guitar and drums. A final band member played both the keyboard and keytar, occasionally playing both simultaneously in an impressive fashion. They played for about two hours. The “after” photo shows noticeable redness on the malleus and the subject observed a slight ringing in his ears.

The Eardrum after the headlining band (12:02am).

The subject’s eardrum after the headlining band (12:02am).

The subject’s eardrums were allowed to rest without further exposure to live music overnight and the following day they were examined again. The redness had diminished and the eardrum appeared to have no remaining observable effects from the concert the night before. The subject also reported that the ringing was no longer present and that he could hear normally.

The Subject's eardrum the next day.

The Subject’s eardrum the next day.


This guest post was written by Tom Reeve, our Senior Mechanical Engineer, and avid concert goer. Thanks, Tom!

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