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Ears May Have Special Pain Pathway

Have you ever wondered why hearing loud sounds can sometimes be painful?  A recent article from the Hearing Review Journal talks specifically about this topic.  The article also discusses how new research may provide insight into other ear conditions such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or hyperacusis (an oversensitivity to everyday sounds).

We are including text from this article below and will continue to follow this research and share findings with you.

loud-picture “Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered that ears have a special pain pathway which acts as a warning system, sending signals to the brain that can protect us from loud noise.  According to an article published in the January 2015 edition of Current Biology, there may be more than one nerve pathway in our ears that deliver sound signals. One pathway, they say, prompts us to cover our ears in response to blaring noises from sirens and firecrackers. Less dramatic noises may travel along a different nerve pathway, without triggering the same protective response.

The second pathway in the ear that has been named auditory nociception (pain) is different from the one that transfers information about normal-level sounds to the brain and enables you to hear things like conversation or soft music. This second pathway, they say, is populated by a single set of neurons activated only by dangerous levels of noise. Scientists aren’t sure if the neurons are triggered by the death of hair cells (sensory cells in the inner ear) or by dangerous sound levels.”

This study reconfirms the importance of wearing hearing protection.  Senior author Jaime García-Añoveros, PhD, associate professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine reminds us, “When sensory hair cells in the ear die, they are not repopulated. That’s why hearing loss is irreversible. You need to be able to detect dangerous sound the way your nerve cells alert you to the danger of putting your hand on a hot iron.”

If you are concerned about your exposure to loud sounds, or struggle with tinnitus, our doctors can help.  You can contact our office by calling 435-688-6991.


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