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Long-term hearing loss from loud explosions, such as blasts from roadside bombs, may not be as irreversible as previously thought, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Using a mouse model, the study found that loud blasts actually cause hair-cell and nerve-cell damage, rather than structural damage, to the cochlea, which is the auditory portion of the inner ear.
The increasingly common use of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, around the world provided the impetus for the new study, which was primarily funded by the U.S. More than 60 percent of wounded-in-action service members have eardrum injuries, tinnitus or hearing loss, or some combination of these, the study says. Permanent hearing loss from loud noise begins at about 85 decibels, typical of a hair dryer or a food blender. In order to determine exactly what is causing the permanent hearing loss, Stanford researchers created a mouse model to study the effects of noise blasts on the ear. After exposing anesthetized mice to loud blasts, researchers examined the inner workings of the mouse ear from the eardrum to the cochlea.

Previous studies on larger animals had found that the cochlea was torn apart and shredded after exposure to a loud blast.
Much of the resulting hearing loss after such blast damage to the ear is actually caused by the body’s immune response to the injured cells, Oghalai said.
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This could be good news for the millions of soldiers and civilians who, after surviving these often devastating bombs, suffer long-term hearing damage.
Twenty-eight percent of all military personnel experience some degree of hearing loss post-deployment. Stanford scientists did not find this in the mouse model and speculate that the use of older research techniques may have caused the damage. The creation of scar tissue to help heal the injury is a particular problem in the ear because the organ needs to vibrate to allow the hearing mechanism to work.

We have thousands and thousands of them but eventually it means you can't hear some sounds.'The research also discovered music was being turned up in classes because it had to compete with equipment noises to be heard and most instructors like to have music loud as it motivated participants. The most devastating effect of blast injury to the ear is permanent hearing loss due to trauma to the cochlea. These vibrations get sent to the cochlea in the inner ear, where fluid carries them to rows of hair cells, which in turn stimulate auditory nerve fibers. These impulses are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve, where they get interpreted as sounds. But the results of the study would prove true for anyone who is exposed to loud blasts from other sources, such as jet engines, air bags or gunfire.

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