Damn! I Could Have Turned It Up to 11!
You couldn’t hear it anyway, but somewhere beyond the roar of AC/DC booming from your new Walkman headphones back in 1982, your mother was tsk-tsk-ing you about the volume and telling you that you would lose your hearing someday. She was right basically right, since listening to music that is TOO DAMN LOUD can actually damage the sensory cells in your inner ear that turn those sounds into the electrical impulses your brain can understand. The damage to these hair cells (no relation to that stuff on your head) has generally been thought to be permanent, but a recent study in Neuron suggests that may not be the case. This research showed that a drug called LY411575 (clearly untouched by a pharmaceutical company’s marketing department) could promote regeneration of hair cells in mice that had been subjected to traumatic hearing loss (no heavy metal was used).The drug works by altering molecular signals that organize the development of different kinds of cells, in this case causing surrounding support cells to switch gears and turn into new replacement hair cells. Even more impressive was that these new hair cells seem to reintegrate into the auditory pathway, so the researchers were able to show recovery of function in downstream circuits. It’s likely that most adult humans have hearing loss from long-term exposure to levels of noise considered to be a normal part of living in an industrial society, meaning therapy based on this method could reduce disability in many people.
As it happens, I was never really a headbanger (and that in any case is still apparently bad for your brain), but I am waiting for the cures for lung cancer and heart disease so I can take up smoking again.