How Your Hearing Grows Back

How many times have you been to a concert or a club where the music has just been too damn loud?

Sometimes you don’t even realize how loud it was until afterwards when your earings are ringing and everything sounds muffled and dull.  But then two days later, things are fine again.  What’s going on? 

New research indicates that loud music damages tiny bundles of hair in your inner ear.  They’re called “stereocilia”–really, “stereocilia”–and their job is to convert sound vibrations into electrical impulses, which then make their way to the brain where they’re interpreted as speech, music or whatever. 

Loud music destroys these hair bundles.  However, they regrow about every two days, which is why it takes that long for your hearing to fully come back.  Scientists don’t know how these hairs renew themselves, but if they didn’t, most of us would probably be as deaf as rocks by now.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

5 thoughts on “How Your Hearing Grows Back

  • March 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Interesting! I was always taught that any damage to your hearing is perminent. Good to know!

  • March 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    I wonder if there is any correlation with tinnitus.

  • March 22, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Yes your ears will heal from something like a rock concert, but there are instances where the damage will be permanent. The stereocilia in instances like that will lie down and as they heal will stand up within the "perilymphatic fluids" in which they reside. But in the case of something like an explosion or a loud blast at close range, these hairs can snap like a piece of straw and will never stand again. As these hairs get broken, you will learn responsiveness in certain frequency bands. The stereocilia just inside the cochlea respond mostly to low frequencies or bass sounds while the ones further on respond to high frequencies and are more easily damaged.

    As a former student of O.I.A.R.T. in London, Ont. one of the key components to the course was learning how the ear worked so that we may learn to take care of ours and learn how not to damage others. I can't emphasize enough the importance of hearing protection (Fairly inexpensive at your local pharmacy) for loud situations like an arena or club concert where the barrage of loud noise is fairly consistent and directional.

  • March 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I've been deaf since hearing a Ministry show : )


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