While exposing your ears to extreme noises and high decibel levels is always a threat to hearing, researchers have found that reversing damage caused by loud blasts could perhaps be treatable.
Audiologists from Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study using mouse models to examine the effects loud noises can have on the auditory portion of the inner ear. The researchers administered loud sound blasts to anesthetized mice while examining the damage suffered from their eardrum to the cochlea. For three months, they dissected the ears, finding that only hair and nerve cells suffered trauma, while structural damage to the cochlea was not found.
Because hair and nerve cells can eventually grow back in the mice, the audiologists were optimistic that further research could help identify how to grow back the cells in human ears, which could drastically revolutionize hearing treatment.
Dr. John Oghalai, a professor at Stanford and lead author of the study, was confident that their initial findings could eventually change the course of hearing loss solutions forever, especially with veterans, in which the study stated that 60 percent of those in active service have eardrum injuries because of their frequent exposure to loud blasts and bangs during combat.
“It means we could potentially try to reduce this damage,” Oghalai said in a statement. “With one loud blast, you lose a huge number of these cells. What’s nice is that the hair cells and nerve cells are not immediately gone. The theory now is that if the ear could be treated with certain medications right after the blast, that might limit the damage.”
Preventing hearing loss
Permanent hearing damage can occur when sounds reach at least 85 decibels, and typical firework shows or rock concerts can easily reach levels of 110 to 125 decibels. Some tips to keep in mind if you are planning on spending extended periods of time surrounded by loud noises include:
- Wear fitted ear plugs, which can reduce noise levels by up to 20 decibels
- Step outside every half hour, or try not to stay for the entire duration of the event
- Get your hearing checked by a hearing health professional after exposure to loud sounds
Until further research is developed to help offset symptoms of hearing impairment, damage to your ears is mostly permanent, so try to take all the precautions necessary to preserve your precious hearing.