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Ears Adapt to High Volume Situations

Update Date: Apr 17, 2013 02:06 PM EDT
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Concerts and music festivals are some of the most enjoyable ways of listening to music. Being surrounding with friends, festivities and of course, one's favorite band or bands makes up for the toll these events have on the ears. Due to the high volumes at music events, the ears often lose their ability to hear for several hours. Although this experience might be scary for some who have never dealt with short-term hearing loss, a new study suggests that listening to loud music infrequently does not lead to damage in the eardrums.

The study looked at the role of temporary hearing loss in mice and found that momentary hearing loss might actually be an adaption to protect the eardrums from permanent damage.  The research team, which was composed of several international researchers, evaluated mice's reactions when they were exposed to extremely loud noises. The researchers found that the mice's inner ears seemed to release a chemical responsible for lowering hearing sensitivity, which means that the mice would not be able to hear as well over the next few hours and even after a day.

Based from this finding, the researchers looked at mice that were bred without the ability to produce this particular chemical and found that these mice did not reduce their hearing sensitivity. These mice were also a lot more vulnerable to developing permanent hearing loss when the researchers exposed them to even higher noises. The researchers concluded that temporary hearing loss might actually be protecting the eardrums from noises after they were initially exposed to loud noises. Although this study might be limited to mice, the researchers noted that there has been human evidence that this adaption occurs. The researchers cited two Chinese families that had genetic mutations that did not allow their eardrums to reduce hearing after loud noises and these family members experienced progressive permanent hearing loss over time.

Despite this finding, the researchers stress that the adaption to loud noises would not protect ears from the constant exposure of loud noises. The researchers state that people with temporary hearing loss might decide to increase the volume, which can actually be detrimental. Thus, it is important to avoid listening to loud music daily and to allow time for the temporary hearing loss to go away before cranking up the volume.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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