One of the common forms of hearing damage comes in the way of chronic conductive hearing loss. This occurs when the ear canal that delivers sound waves to the inner ear is damaged. Normally these sounds are transmitted to the eardrum, and then to the tiny bones within the inner ear, but in a person with conductive hearing loss, this transmission is not as successful. Sound levels and noises become softer and muted, and harder to understand.
Recent research done with mice and sound deprivation demonstrates that, if untreated, conductive hearing loss becomes permanent damage to a person’s hearing ability. The researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear studied a group of mice that already possessed conductive hearing damage. Due to this conductive loss, the mice experienced sound deprivation for a year, and then had the tiny bones in their inner ear studied. What researchers found were major changes and a significant decline in the mice’s abilities to transmit sounds from the ear canal to the inner ear. The sound deprivation caused them to lose synaptical connections that were able to send signals.
Before this study, the relationship between sound depravation and permanent hearing loss was not heavily researched. But by applying the results from the mice to adult humans, it has become more clear that it is crucial to treat any conductive hearing loss in a patient. Just as hearing loss caused by noise exposure, aging, and etc. can get worse over time or become permanent, so can chronic conductive loss. Many patients choose not to treat their hearing damage or undergo surgery, especially if the damage only affects one ear. But after this study, hopefully there will be more pressure to prevent any further permanent damage, and researchers will continue to find efficient and successful ways to preserve hearing.