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Could listening to white noise after loud sounds help to prevent tinnitus?

Tuesday 6th June 2017
Loud noise-induced tinnitus could be reversed by listening to white noise, new research suggests. Image: MariaArefyeva via iStock
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Listening to white noise after exposure to loud sounds could help to prevent the development of tinnitus and other forms of hearing loss, a new study suggests.
Research carried out by scientists based at the University of Pittsburgh in the US used mice to explore the effects of white noise in preventing hearing loss, as they believe similar results could be achieved in humans.
The study saw mice exposed to sound levels of 116 decibels for a period of 45 minutes. This is equivalent to listening to live music at a rock concert or standing on an airport runway, for example.
After one week, around half of the mice were found to be suffering from a persistent ringing in their ears, which would be characterised as tinnitus in humans.
However, after exposing the mice to white noise at a sound level of approximately 75 decibels each day for a week following the original loud noise exposure, the ringing in their ears was not as persistent and caused no lasting damage to their hearing function.
This therefore suggests that people who are experiencing a ringing in their ears after a loud gig, night out or from being close to a loud bang or engine should listen to white noise to prevent long-term damage to their hearing.
Scientists believe that this damage can be reversed due to a change in the inferior colliculus, which is the part of the ear affected by tinnitus.
The research team, led by Karl Kandler, believe that the sensitivity of the inferior colliculus increases following exposure to loud noises, but by targeting this with white noise as soon as possible after the initial damage, any long-term adverse effects can be reversed.
The full study can be found in the Journal of Neuroscience and is entitled 'Noise trauma-induced behavioural gap detection deficits correlate with reorganisation of excitatory and inhibitory local circuits in the inferior colliculus and are prevented by acoustic environment'.
Written by James Puckle
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