New MP3 player for Christmas? Don’t turn the volume up too loud!

Dr Rebecca Dewey with a research participant

For music lovers who received a device for Christmas, the New Year may offer the chance to rediscover and upload their favourite tracks. But experts at The University of Nottingham are warning audiophiles to be careful not to turn the volume up too loud.

Noise exposure from personal stereos, live music events and other sources can damage the hearing – leading to problems which are not always easy to identify using regular clinical tests.

Now the researchers at the National Institute for Health Research Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit are set to investigate this so-called ‘hidden’ hearing loss and are appealing for volunteers to take part in their study.

Professor Deb Hall, the institute’s director, said: “Hidden hearing loss leads to a reduction in quality of life, and is likely to be predictive of more severe hearing loss in old age. Hence, hidden hearing loss is a major public health issue demanding comprehensive investigation.”

Excessive noise exposure is the main cause of preventable hearing impairment worldwide, accounting for more than one-third of all cases of hearing loss in industrialised nations.

Damage is linked to tinnitus (ringing in the ear) and reduced tolerance of moderate-to-high-level sounds. A possible explanation for this is that the areas of the brain that process sounds may work differently after exposure to loud noises.

Some people report that they have difficulty hearing even when an audiologist is not able to detect a hearing loss.

The researchers are now enlisting the help of people who have been exposed to loud noises in order to study this ‘hidden’ hearing loss and are aiming to recruit up to 90 healthy adult volunteers aged between 25 and 40 years old.

The study will take place at the University’s Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre on University Park campus and will comprise of three visits each lasting up to two hours.

This study will use a brand new state-of-the-art clinical MR scanner that was installed as part of a £9 million centre-wide facilities upgrade funded the MRC and The University of Nottingham. The new wide-bore scanner will significantly improve patient comfort during their MR scan, reducing the impact of claustrophobia and achieving better quality images as a direct result of patients being able to keep still for longer. The new noise-cancellation system will counteract any discomfort the patient experiences from being in the loud environment of the scanner.

Volunteers will have an MRI scan to measure how much the areas of the brain that process sounds are responding when the volunteer listens to sounds – and will have the opportunity to see pictures of their own brain.

In addition, they will have their hearing tested using similar techniques to those used in audiology clinics. Volunteers will be asked to tell us how much exposure to noises they have had in their lifetime. The measures will be used to understand the relationship between exposure to loud noises and hearing problems.

The NIHR Nottingham Hearing Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) is a partnership between Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, The University of Nottingham, and Medical Research Council Institute of Hearing Research and focuses on hearing research that can be directly translated into practical benefits to improve the quality of patients’ lives.

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More information is available from Dr Rebecca Dewey in the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 823 2638, rebecca.dewey@nottingham.ac.uk; or Emma Thorne, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Communications Office at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and winner of both ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’, according to the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide and ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16. More than 97 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is recognised internationally and it is 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…


The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. The NIHR is the research arm of the NHS. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (www.nihr.ac.uk).