Blasting loud music can damage your ears

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

ear anatomy
This is a cartoon of a typical neuron (purple). The myelin sheaths (in yellow) cover the long neuron axon and give rise to spaces known as Nodes of Ranvier.

Sometimes, when our favorite song plays on the radio, we can’t help but turn up the volume and sing our hearts out. However, we’ve all heard from disapproving adults that blasting music loudly is bad for our hearing… and now there’s a new study that totally proves their point. Yikes! I guess I need to dial down those Ariana Grande songs.

So, how exactly are we able to hear? Well, listen up! Our body’s amazing “auditory system” basically transforms vibrations in the air into electrical pulses. Then, the jolts of electricity are delivered to the brain by skinny, string-like cell bodies called neurons, which help our nervous system make connections. In fact, our hearing anatomy includes thousands of neurons that join together in a large bundle known as the auditory nerve, and just like the majority of neurons in the nervous system, they are designed for speed.

One of the main ways a neuron quickly zaps an electrical message along is by using a white fatty substance known as a myelin sheath. They cover the outer cells and resemble long beads on a string. In between these myelin sheaths are spaces called the “Nodes of Ranvier”, which are pivotal for rapidly delivering electrical pulses to the brain. However, these spaces apparently get damaged when we blast music into our ears!

See, a group of scientists ran a computer simulation to test the damaging effects of loud sounds. As the myelin around the auditory nerve grows thin, we slowly lose our ability to understand spoken words or hear high-pitched sounds. In some instances, damage to the auditory nerve can lead to “tinnitus”, which is a constant ringing in the ear. Normally, these defects naturally occur as we age, which is why older relatives may ask you to speak up when you’re talking. That being said, bombarding your sensitive ears at a young age will certainly hasten the process!

The World Health Organization recently warned that 1 billion people ages 12 to 35 are risking their hearing, and they’ve partnered with organizations like Dangerous Decibels, Listen to Your Buds, and Turn it to the Left to prevent hearing loss. So, be sure to keep the volume on your headphones and speakers at a reasonable level…

Featured image courtesy of Titanas on Flickr Image of ear anatomy courtesy of Quasar Jarosz on Wikimedia.