You may have always been told that the temporary hearing loss you experience after going to a rock concert is damaging to your hearing, but new studies show that it may actually be a protective measure taken by your body to deal with excessive volume. This may lead to new methods of preventing noise-related hearing damage.

Whether it be a few hours or a few days, this temporary hearing loss gives the cochlea the opportunity to maintain its normal performance despite the additional volume. There is a hormone called ATP released by the cochlea’s cells when noise stress increases, reducing your ability to hear for a period of time by combining with a particular receptor, serving to protect sensitive parts of the ear.

When mice that did not have this certain receptor were subjected to loud noises, the result was less immediate hearing loss but greater permanent damage. This shows the benefits of the temporary hearing loss caused by this receptor. It is moving scientists to study how to manually activate the receptor so as to provide protection from noisy environments.

The research showed that this action taken by the cochlea protects your hearing from long term damage only when exposure to loud noise is occasional – when there is a constant exposure to loud sounds, hearing in the high frequency range can become damaged. Such long-term exposure often occurs in noisy work environments.

Researchers also related this phenomenon to sun exposure – while the body seems to deal well with one extreme exposure, long term exposure to intense rays can cause permanent damage.

The study explains why hearing loss can run in families, as a genetic predisposition may cause some to not have the same protective response to loud situations. There is of course a limit to the volume our ears can handle even with this protective mechanism, thus family history is not the only factor to be concerned about when it comes to noise-related hearing loss.