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Why does over exposure to loud noise cause hearing loss?

"by " Albert Stein

Over-exposure to loud noise is an almost entirely avoidable cause of hearing loss around the world.

While extended listening to volume levels 75 decibels and below is considered to pose a minor threat of damaging our hearing, when noise passes the threshold of 85 decibels, that's when things start to change, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders*. 

In Australia, it's estimated that noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) accounts for 37 per cent of all cases of hearing loss, as reported by the Queensland government*. In the past, it was uncertain exactly how NIHL occurred, but new research is bringing us a step closer to understanding the process. 

Researchers from the University of Leicester examined the link between the altered transmission of sound due to hearing loss and damage to the protective myelin sheet that surrounds our cells. 

Dr Martine Hamann, from the Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology explains:

"We have now shown the closer links between a deficit in the 'myelin' sheath surrounding the auditory nerve and hearing loss. It becomes obvious why hearing loss is correlated with auditory signals failing to get transmitted along the auditory nerve."*

She said that by better understanding how hearing conditions occur at a cellular level, it can enable the development of strategies to relieve symptoms of hearing loss and tinnitus*. 


"Consequently, targeting myelin and promoting its repair after exposure to loud sound could be proven effective in noise induced hearing loss," she said. 

"We know that exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing loss. Protecting your ears should always be the first line of defence, but medical treatments to combat unavoidable or accidental exposure to noise are also urgently needed," said Dr Ralph Holme, from the UK's Action on Hearing Loss*. 

Have you been experiencing difficulty hearing after spending time in a loud environment? To find out whether you could benefit from a hearing solution, click here or call 1800 340 631 to request an appointment with your local Audika clinic.

*NIDCD, Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Accessed September 7, 2015. 

*Queensland Government, Noise fact sheet. Accessed September 7, 2015.

*University of Leicester, Tinnitus study signals new advance in understanding link between exposure to loud sounds and hearing loss. Accessed September 7, 2015.