Saturday, April 11

Like Loud Misic, Scared of Going Deaf - Fear No More

Anti-Loudness Protein

Fans of club music and rock concerts who like the volume cranked up to 11 but want to save their hearing might someday pop a pill rather than plugging their ears. Scientists have pinpointed the biochemical mechanism in ears that works to limit damaging effects of loud sound. When a noise registers in the brain as too loud, the protein nAChR, located on sensory hair cells in the inner ear, kicks in to limit the ability of the hair cells to respond. Mice genetically altered to produce a more potent nAChR could not hear soft sounds, and they suffered less permanent damage to their hearing when scientists blasted 100-decibel noise at their ears. "We know some drugs can modify the protein," says Paul Fuchs of Johns Hopkins University, who published the findings in the January 20 PLoS Biology. "But we need to know more about specific amounts" before a sound-protecting drug can be made. So don't toss the earplugs yet.
--Kate Wilcox

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