Noise sensitive persons can blame their brain

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Too loud! Image credit: JMEG via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Up to 20-40% of the healthy population are sensitive to noise according to different estimates, which make them less tolerant to background noise. A new study, recently published in the scientific journal NeuroImage, shows that noise sensitivity can be measured physiologically in the brain. Brain scans have shown that both how the brain is built and the way the brain functions in terms of sound processing can differentiate people who are highly sensitive to noise and who are tolerant to it.

This result is fine in line with previous results from the researchers, showing that noise-sensitive individuals have difficulties in processing noisy sounds, and they have an altered neuronal response to unexpected sounds. They have previously shown that several brain structures responsible for the emotional and acoustic evaluation of sound are larger in highly noise sensitive people.

“This work shows that noise sensitivity is more than just negative judgments that noise sensitive people tend to give about their acoustic environment. The problem is rooted in the brain,” – says one of the researchers behind the result, Dr Kliuchko, postdoc at Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University and The Royal Academy of Music in Denmark.

Noise-sensitive persons love music too

These findings, however, do not imply that noise sensitive people cannot enjoy sounds at all. The studies show that noise-sensitive people are involved with music listening, as much as people who are not as sensitive and they can even be musicians. Nevertheless, they prefer not to have music in the background.

“Nowadays, music is present in the background in nearly all public places like shops, bars, and cafeterias. While appreciated by others, background music cause disturbance to noise-sensitive people just as any other less pleasant noises. I hope that our work will increase awareness to how important it is to regulate the amount of noise exposure in our society,” – says Elvira Brattico, professor at Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University and senior researcher on the study.

Noise sensitivity is recognized as a risk factor for noise-induced health problems, such as heart disease and sleep disturbance.  Until now, little was known about the physiological origin.

Source: Aarhus University

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