Loud music played on earphones causes hearing loss by having a similar effect on nerves as multiple sclerosis, research finds. The research shows that noise levels above 110 decibels strip insulation from nerve fibers carrying signals from the ear to the brain. Loss of the protective coating, called myelin, disrupts electrical nerve signals.
The same process, this time due to an attack from the immune system, damages nerves in the brain and results in multiple sclerosis.
It is well known that loud noises can lead to hearing problems such as temporary hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and even permanent hearing loss. But this is the first time scientists have been able to identify damages to nerve cells as a result of noise exposure.
"The research allows us to understand the pathway from exposure to loud noises to hearing loss. Dissecting the cellular mechanisms underlying this condition is likely to bring a very significant healthcare benefit to a wider population. The work will help prevention as well as progression into finding appropriate cures for hearing loss", said the lead researcher Dr. Martine Hamann, from the University of Leicester in the UK.
Hearing can recover
Scientists found that myelin loss, as a result of noise exposure, re-grows in time, meaning hearing can recover.
The work is part of ongoing research into the effects of loud noises on the cochlea nucleus, a brainstem region that receives sound signals from the inner ear. Based on these results, scientists may be able to develop a future treatment method.
The results have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.