Are earphones really damaging to health?

Thursday 7th March 2013
Submitted by Robert Matthews
Lukasz Musialowicz, London

Doctors have long warned of the damaging effects of prolonged exposure to loud music via earphones. The popularity of portable cassette players in the 1980s led to studies claiming that around 1 in 20 people were risking Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.

Yet while there is no doubt that exposure to loud noise from, for example, machinery can lead to permanent damage, evidence that music from portable devices does the same has remained elusive. That’s changing, however, as scientists focus on finding actual physical damage to nerves. Dr Martine Hamann and colleagues at the University of Leicester recently published the first evidence of such harm, by showing that loud noises strip nerve cells of their protective coating, preventing them from reliably transmitting signals from the ear to the brain.

This confirms previous studies showing that even brief exposure to loud music can reduce the sensitivity of the ear. But the finding also explains why evidence of permanent damage has been elusive. Dr Hamann found that nerve cells repair themselves, replacing the outer layer after a few months – if they’re given the chance.

Could the human mind ever run out of memory?
previous qanda Article
Can crows recognise human faces?
next qanda Article
Q&A Tabs

Icebergs are notorious for keeping around 90 per cent of their bulk hidden beneath the surface of the sea. While this makes them far more dangerous to shipping than they appear, it does mean they...

Phlegm is the mucous secretion of the respiratory passages. The cilia cells that line these passages are continually driving the phlegm upward to the throat, where it triggers the swallow reflex...

Putting conkers around the house to deter spiders is an old wives’ tale and there’s no evidence to suggest it really works. Spiders don’t eat conkers or lay eggs in them, so...

Astronomer Fred Hoyle was the first to point out that if you could drive a car upwards at 95km/h (60mph), it would only take about an hour to get into space. To get to the Moon would take a little...

It depends on the temperature of the water. In cold water, the bacterial action that causes a body to bloat with gas may be so slowed that the body stays on the seabed. The skin will absorb water...

All female mammals have a clitoris, the sole purpose of which is to react to sexual stimulation, and presumably this stimulation has evolved to be pleasurable for most species. But establishing...

To create a sound, we have to set matter - whether it's a gas like air, a liquid or even a solid material - in regular motion, creating a wave of specific frequencies, which we hear as a sound of...

Mirrors don’t reverse left and right either – that’s just our interpretation of what happens. Your reflection in the mirror is actually reversed front to back – if you have...

Discovered by an American student named Gary Flandro in the mid-1960s, the slingshot manoeuvre usually involves spacecraft briefly 'coat-tailing' a planet orbiting the Sun, extracting some of the...

The ice disappears because the wind blows away water molecules that have evaporated or 'sublimed' from the ice, so the ice slowly shrinks in size. The molecules that escape are those with the...

We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here