Most of us enjoy going to an occasional loud rock show and just dealing with the pounding that our ear drums take. After the show most people find themselves yelling at each other as everything sounds muted, and it takes a while for your ears to readjust. While a show every once in a while is not that damaging, new evidence is coming out that shows overexposure to loud noise, whether from a rock concert, your work place or wherever, can lead to permanent damage and tinnitus.
What is Tinnitus
Tinnitus, which most people simply know as, “a ringing in my ear” is a condition caused by exposure to loud noises. A study just published in the The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that too much exposure to loud noise can cause lasting changes to our auditory circuitry, which in turn leads to Tinnitus. The condition has no known cure and currently inflicts 50 million people globally.
A previous study had shown that somatosensory nerves in one’s neck and face become overreacting after damage is done to the ears. It seems to be a sign of the brain interpreting the hearing of a noise that does not really exist, leading to the overcompensation of the somatosensory nerves. Somatosensory neurons carry information that relate to vibrations, temperature, touch and pain to the brain and become highly active during loud noises. It has now of course been shown that the neurons stay highly active even when noise levels have returned to normal, if loud has become an accustomary normal.
The importance of these discoveries is that by understanding how the neurons, nerves, brain and ears are connected, in the future it can be discovered how the activity of the neurons can be lessened and not overcompensate for the expectation of loud noises, and therefore not create that ringing in your ear. Essentially, it could lead to the cure for Tinnitus.
The Baby Boomer generation has especially been hit hard by Tinnitus, which of course being the large size of the population this group is, leading to higher health care costs and a large portion of people seeking relief from the condition. It is already expected that the Baby Boomer generation will lead to a strain on health care resources, inflation and likely higher taxes to cover this cost. By definition a “Baby Boomer” is one born between 1946 to 1964, and there are 76 million such people. Another group affected is military personnel, with Tinnitus being the number one disability of armed force personnel.
As research continues, it is of course always important to not expose oneself to prolonged periods or exposures of loud noises. Not only can it lead to Tinnitus, but is a leading cause of hearing loss, which can lead to the need for hearing aids.