Boston Marathon bombings are still taking a heavy toll on victims’ hearing

David Kirkwood
November 20, 2014

BOSTON—More than a year after the Boston Marathon bombings of April 15, 2013, scores of victims of the terrorist action are still suffering from hearing loss, tinnitus, and other conditions resulting from exposure to the two explosions. So report 15 physicians and audiologists writing in the December 2014 issue of Otology & Neurotology.

In the aftermath of the shocking attack that occurred near the finish line of the race in downtown Boston, more than 100 people were treated for trauma to the auditory system. Among a group of 44 of the victims who received both initial and follow-up otologic assessments, 80% reported worse hearing in one or both ears and 68% had new or worsened tinnitus, according to the article, “Otologic Outcomes after Blast Injury: The Boston Marathon Experience.”


 Aaron Remenschneider

Aaron Remenschneider

The report was the product of a Boston-wide collaboration led by Aaron Remenschneider, MD, an otolaryngologist, and principal investigator Alicia Quesnel, MD, an otologist, both from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The participants reviewed the otologic injuries caused by the 2013 attack and conducted a follow-up evaluation of outcomes on hearing and related conditions.

Investigators included faculty and staff from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital, Tufts University School of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Alicia Quesnel

Alicia Quesnel

The follow-up study found that in many patients, hearing problems and tinnitus remained, and in some cases they were becoming worse more than a year after the attack.

Among other lingering conditions were hyperacusis (increased sensitivity to sound) and dizziness or balance problems.

Because of their findings, the authors concluded, “Continued follow-up and care of this patient population are warranted.”

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