It is no secret that loud noises can harm your ears and hearing. Exposure to loud noises can be harmful whether for a short period of time or a over a long period of time. This is one reason why most if not all audiologists will recommend using hearing protectors when you are in a situation that may produce loud noises, like concerts. Researchers are now looking at how loud noises actually affect the brains ability to process sound which leads to hearing loss.
With over 15% of Americans suffering from noise induced hearing loss researchers have been taking a deeper look at how noise takes a toll on brain function. To recreate a situation that posed a threat to ears by loud noise exposure researchers at UT Dallas looked at how rats reacted to high level noise exposure for one hour. There were two groups tested, both had loud noise exposure only one group was exposed to a louder noise. The first group heard a noise at 115 db and the second heard a noise at 124db. The two sounds were both louder than the noise produced by a chainsaw. The study then looked at how these noises affected the brains ability to process sound, specifically by looking at the auditory cortex. This part of the brain is related to speech and gives the closest comparison. One month after exposure researchers saw that the group exposed to the higher decibel noise experience a drastic decrease in ability to react to sound stimulations. Nearly two thirds of the rats were unable to react to sounds. In the remaining small group that was able to react to sound stimulations, the researchers saw an abnormal pattern in the auditory cortex. This means that the rats were not able to process speech sounds in a normal way after being exposed to loud noises. In the group that was exposed to a lower decibel sound, the rats were able to react to low frequency noises but unable to react to high frequency sounds. Thus again, showing how loud noises are extremely dangerous to hearing and how the brain is able to perceive sounds, particularly speech sounds.
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