People who go to concerts or other noisy events can probably relate to the stuffed up feeling inside the ears after the experience. It was thought that this muffling was an early sign of a potential long term problems or hearing loss. It turns out what had previously been seen as the first stages of noise induced hearing loss may be a way the ears protect you from noise.
It was thought that the muffled sound inside the ears after exposure to loud noise was damage to the hair cells. It makes sense. Inside the ear are small, delicate hairs that help conduct the noise that constitutes your hearing. Injury to these hair cells comes from exposure, sudden or prolonged, to loud noises. This injury results in hearing loss, so it would make sense that a temporary inability to hear would be the first sign of this type of damage. But that might not be the case.
Researchers in Auckland, NZ have determined that what was once thought to be a temporary form of noise induced hearing loss, experienced after exposure to loud noise, is in fact the cochlea protecting itself.
According to an article on by Science Alert the team of scientist, "...demonstrate that what we traditionally regard as a temporary hearing loss from noise exposure is in fact the cochlea of the inner ear adapting to the noisy environment, turning itself down in order to be able to detect new signals that appear in the noise."
A chemical compound called ATP is thought to produce this temporary and helpful muffling to protect the cochlea from damage. In fact, people who don't have or have less ATP are more likely to experience hearing loss from both noise and aging.
According to Professor Thorne--quoted in the Science Alert article--“This work is important because it shows that our ears naturally adapt to their environment, a bit like pupils of the eye which dilate or constrict with light, but over a longer time course."
Although this is a potentially exciting discovery, the ears still need protection from thinking humans. It's hard to determine how much ATP you have, so wearing ear protection can help provide you with the coverage you might need. Also, too much exposure to loud sounds can produce damage despite the ATP.
Regular checkups with your audiologist are as important as regular checkups with your eye doctor. Your sense of hearing is a precious gift that needs to be maintained through proper care and prevention. Summer sounds and activities damage hearing, so take precautions and see an audiologist to head off any hearing health problems before they happen. If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!