Our inner ear contains more than 30,000 hair cells, which capture sound waves and send electric impulses to the hearing nerve in the brain. In order to hear, these hair cells must work when they meet sounds.
Previously, it was thought that the hairs on the hair cells were stiff and could only bend to the sides. However, researchers at Karolinska Instituttet in Stockholm have found that the hairs can also become soft.
If the hairs are soft, the electrical impulses become weaker and this means that the sound signals to the brain become weaker.
Soft hairs in the inner ear can therefore be a factor in explaining reduced hearing and age-related hearing loss (presyacusis).
With age, the hair cells' ability is reduced, the electrical charge deteriorates and age-related hearing loss can occur.
When the ear is less charged and has less electrical energy, the hairs in the hair cells become soft.
The next step is to investigate the hairs' cell protein so as to find a means of making the hairs stiff again.´
Researchers therefore hope to find a means of improving the hearing of people with reduced hearing and age-related hearing loss.
Source: http://www.hoerelse.info; Auris, nr. 6, Oktober 2012.
Sounds are waves in the air
The ear - a magnificent organ