Preventing hearing loss is the first line of defense in preserving one of your most vital and enjoyable senses. But a lot of Americans are not in the know of effective ways that they can protect themselves from damaging these delicate sensory organs.
Over 12% Americans suffer from hearing loss, accounting for over 38 million people, according to CHC Hearing. A new study is finding that our hearing system does have built-in defense mechanisms that are supposed to help us know when they might be prone to getting damaged, thus helping with preventing hearing loss.
For example, pain in the body tells us that something is wrong and is damaging the body. A foul smell lets us know that there is something rotten or infested with bacterial agents. A flashing light causes us to blink and protect our eyes. A bitterness in the foods we eat may be indicative that something is amiss. But up until now, there wasn’t any real conclusive evidence that our ears were able to tell us anything, much less offer a built-in bodily system for preventing hearing loss.
For years, scientists and doctors were baffled that the ears didn’t have a sensory overload warning system built-in by organic design. But now, as it turns out, there just might be such a function in the human hearing system after all.
A group of researchers have hopes that they’ve pinpointed a pain receptor system in the ear, which could explain why we cover our ears during exposure to high decibel noises, or why we plug our ears with our fingers or cover them with our hands.
A study that was published by the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University noted that a neural pathway linking the ear to the central nervous system also could serve as an “alert” mechanism to protect our hearing and eardrums from sustaining irreparable damage. The study, which has so far been conducted on mice, found that that certain neurons in the brain are only able to be activated when they are intimated by loud noises.
What is uncertain is whether something else may inadvertently trigger this protective response or whether loud noises that induce pain may be the culprit. In addition, the study does not offer conclusive findings about the cause of hyperacusis, which is a disorder that causes hypersensitivity to noise.
One of the goals of the study is to find out how to cure tinnitus, which affects most returning military veterans in addition to scores of civilians. If the outcome is efficacious, it could open the door to new treatments and preventative, protective measures for preventing hearing loss and even treating it and hypersensitive ears.