Although some factors that account for hearing loss cannot be avoided, like family history, disease, and the aging process, others are directly related to a person’s choices. For example, noise exposure is one of the leading causes of loss in adults. We’ve known for many years that loud environments endanger the ears, but until recently, we did not know that sound deprivation may also lead to irreversible hearing loss. So if you’ve been putting off a visit to get your hearing checked, why wait any longer? Your procrastination could have permanent consequences.This revelation reflects the findings of a study conducted at the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in November 2015 (source). The researchers followed a group of adult mice with chronic loss in one ear resulting from an issue in the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear (also known as conductive hearing loss). They tracked changes in the inner ear for a year, noting the effects of sound deprivation. They observed a dramatic transformation, including a significant loss of synaptic connections (which allow sensory cells to send electrical signals to the brain). For humans, this means that sound deprivation from untreated conductive hearing loss may lead to irreversible hearing loss.Although other studies have looked at the effects of acoustic deprivation, to the researchers’ knowledge, none have specifically examined how it can change the inner ear. Thus, the results of this study were both surprising and concerning. Hopefully, they will help people better understand the importance of swift and effectual treatment for hearing loss.