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Ann Otol Rhinol Laryngol. 2009 Jun;118(6):417-27.

Impulse noise: theoretical solutions to the quandary of cochlear protection.

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Department of Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Workers in industries with impact noise, as well as soldiers exposed to supersonic blasts from armament and explosive devices, appear to be more at risk for hearing loss than are their counterparts exposed to continuous noise. Alternative considerations for hearing protection are dictated because of a disproportionately increased biophysical response in comparison to continuous noise. Impulse noise is a significant and distinct problem that requires a new strategy for hearing protection. A review of current clinical and occupational literature suggests that impulse noise may be more damaging than continuous sound. Statistical measurements such as kurtosis hold promise for the quantitative prediction of hearing loss. As sound energy to the cell increases, the mechanism of cochlear damage shifts from biochemical injury to mechanical injury. Outer hair cells appear to be more sensitive than inner hair cells to impulse noise because of their energy requirements, which lead to increased production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species and self-destruction by apoptosis. Hearing protective devices currently in use for impulse noise include hunters' hearing devices, active noise-reduction headsets, and various in-ear plugs, including nonlinear reacting inserts. Existing equipment is hampered by the materials used and by present-day electronic technology. Antioxidants administered before sound exposure show promise in mitigating hearing loss in industrial and combat situations. New materials with improved damping, reflective, and absorption characteristics are required. Hearing protective devices that allow passage of ambient sound while blocking harmful noise might improve the compliance and safety of those exposed. Sensing devices that instantaneously and selectively hyperpolarize outer hair cells are discussed as alternate protection.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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