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March 04, 2014

Noise also makes fruit flies lose their hearing

Fruit flies are ideal to study human hearing, even though they “listen” with an antenna.

Researchers from University of Iowa have studied the sensitivity of fruit flies' hearing by exposing them to a loud 120 decibel tone. The study discovered great similarities between the hearing of the tiny insects and humans, which make them ideal for study.

The results may help researchers to fully understand the factors involved in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and how to ease the effects of noise traumas in the future.

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is an expensive and growing health problem. It may be a challenge to aging generations, who enters retirement, as well as to young people, who hear loud music in ear buds and are exposed to loud music at concerts.

Hearing recovers

Fruit flies “listen” with an antenna rather than ears. Even so, if fruit flies are blasted by loud sounds and noises, it has the same effect on the tiny insects as it does on humans.

In the study, the insects were exposed to a loud 120 decibel tone, which is similar to the noise exposure at a rock concert. The flies' responsiveness was tested by inserting tiny electrodes into their antennas.

The fruit flies receiving the loud tone had their impaired hearing compared to that of a control group of flies. A week later, when the flies that were exposed to noise were tested again, they had recovered normal hearing levels.

Human ears

The molecular make-up of the common fruit fly's hearing apparatus is roughly the same as that in people. This makes fruit flies ideal in the study of human hearing loss.

The study can be the foundation for studying molecular and genetic conditions resulting from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Researchers hope to learn how generic pathways change in response to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), as well as how modifications to these pathways might reduce the effects of noise-induced trauma.


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