March 07, 2014

Permanent Hearing Loss From Noise May Depend on Time of Day!

Research out of Sweden have discovered that noise-induced hearing loss sustained at night is more likely to become permanent than if it occurred during the day... at least in mice.

Apparently, there are certain genes found to cycle in the cochlea of mice in a pattern that followed the hours of the day. By measuring the auditory nerve activity, they found that mice exposed to moderate noise levels during the night suffered from permanent hearing loss while mice exposed to similar noise levels during the day did not. The ability to heal after noise-induced hearing loss (temporary threshold shift) was linked to the circadian rhythm due to levels of BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor).

Specifically, concentration of BDNF increases in the cochlea during the day which protected hearing from permanent damage whereas levels were absent at night. Furthermore, researchers were able to artificially increase BDNF levels at night when normally absent and confer hearing protection with noise exposure.

What does this mean for humans?

IF human ears also have a biologic clock similar to mice, than researchers MIGHT be able to develop a specific way to reverse (or prevent) noise-induced hearing loss. Currently, the only way to treat acute noise-induced hearing loss is high doses of steroids whether orally or by injection directly into the ear.

Also, humans should probably avoid listening to loud music at night (i.e. concerts, night-clubs, restaurants, etc) which elevates risk of permanent hearing loss (compared to during the day).

TrkB-Mediated Protection against Circadian Sensitivity to Noise Trauma in the Murine Cochlea. Current Biology, 27 February 2014. 10.1016/j.cub.2014.01.047
Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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