Hearing loss after a concert is actually a sign your ears are PROTECTING themselves
Short-term deafness may be way of coping with loud noise but cannot protect against sustained exposure
During loud noise, the cochlea releases a hormone which binds to a receptor, reducing sound sensitivity
Hearing loss after going to a noisy concert is not a sign of damage, but that the ears are protecting themselves, according to new research.
Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia believe that short-term hearing loss after being exposed to loud noise may be the body’s way of coping.
However, they warn that this defence mechanism cannot help against a sustained high frequency assault on the ears – such as that caused by listening to loud music through headphones.
Professor Gary Housley said that the condition – ‘reversible hearing loss’ – is an adaptation mechanism which allows the cochlea, the auditory portion of the inner ear, to protect itself from loud noise.
He said: ‘This explains why we lose our hearing for hours or days after we have been exposed to a rock concert, for example.
‘The adaptation mechanism has been switched on.’
He said that as sound levels rise, the cochlea releases a hormone, ATP, which binds to a receptor and causes a reduction in hearing sensitivity.
‘It’s not the acute exposure, but the chronic exposure, that can cause problems years later.’
Co-author Professor Allen Ryan, from the University of California, San Diego, said: ‘If the efficiency of this gene varies between individuals, as is the case for many genes, it may go some way to explaining why some people are very vulnerable to noise, or develop hearing loss with age and others don’t.’
Professor Housley said it had implications even for those without a family history of hearing loss.
He said: ‘Because our hearing sensitivity adapts, we can withstand loud noise, but we can’t sense the absolute intensity of the sound and if we exceed the safe sound upper limit, we will damage our hearing – despite this protective adaptation mechanism we have discovered.
‘This is clearly the case for personal music devices, these deliver much higher sound levels into our ears than naturally occurred as our hearing sense evolved.’