Posted on Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Do Your Ears Sleep?

hourglass with hand. Do your ears sleep?

The ears and their primary function of hearing have long held mysteries that scientist cannot unravel. As scientist delve into these mysteries they are discovering some surprising and beneficial things about hearing. One of the newest discoveries is that your ears know what time of day it is and adjust their abilities accordingly.

Scientist have discovered that your ears, or at least the mechanism that protects your hearing, goes to sleep at night. That means if you're working late at night or are exposed to loud noises while you sleep, your hearing is more likely to be damaged--even when exposed to the same noise level as during the day. It's 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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