Posted on Thursday, June 25, 2015

Your Ears Can Tell Time

Girl smells flower.

There are some people who don't need an alarm clock to wake up at the same time every day. They have what those of us who need an alarm call a good, "internal clock." It turns out that your ears also have a good internal clock. Your ears know when to go to sleep at night and when to wake up.

Scientist have discovered that your ears, or at least the mechanism that protects your hearing, goes to sleep at night. This is important for us to know, because it helps us to understand our hearing and to understand why some people are sensitive to noises at night.

It also means if a person works late at night or are exposed to loud noises while sleeping their hearing is more likely to be damaged--even when exposed to the same noise level as during the day. If you work nights or live around an area with a lot of noise at night make sure to inform your audiologist or hearing health provider at your next visit.

Hearing, it turns out, is all about circadian rhythms. For a long time researchers have known that important physical functions are set to a circadian clock. This clock operates on a 24 hour schedule with its most active period being during the day. In fact, circadian comes from the Latin circa meaning around and diem meaning day.

So what exactly is happening within the ears that allows them to be protected during the day and not at night? During the day a hormone called brain-derived-neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is distributed into the ears. This hormone protects the auditory nerves from damage. It provides a layer of insulation to protect the ears from harmful noises that are more likely during waking or day hours. Since nights are typically quieter it makes sense that your body wouldn't work hard to produce a hormone that is not really needed.

This finding published in a recent edition of the journal Current Biology was reported on by Science Daily. These findings are important to further our understanding of hearing. As the article on Science Daily stated, "The findings pave the way for new treatment methods for hearing damage, which affects between 10 and 15 per cent of the population. The science of hearing loss continues to move forward at a staggering pace. Not only does this aid in our knowledge, but it contributes to some of the amazing technologies available today for people with hearing loss.

To find out more about and to protect the amazing sense that is your hearing visit your hearing health professional. If you need help finding a professional in your area, click HERE!


Karolinska Institutet. "Circadian clock in the ear: Time of day of hearing damage affects healing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227125249.htm (accessed May 1, 2014).

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