Why do my ears ring after a loud concert?

No discussion of loud sounds is complete without someone asking this question. It is a widespread experience, but the answer to the question "Why?" is not clear, at least to me. In general terms it would seem likely that it results from some level of trauma to the inner ear, where the hair cells respond to sound by producing nerve signals which travel to auditory area of the brain.

Those nerve cells of the inner ear normally fire only upon stimulation by a sound signal, but it is a tempting speculation that with trauma, they may "self-fire". This then is one conjecture about the ringing in the ears, that the nerve cells become a "relaxation oscillator", firing and then firing again as soon as they are recharged. The ringing is usually perceived as a high pitched sound, and that might correspond to the frequencies of maximum sensitivity. If it is some kind of self-firing process, then self-firing at the maximum sensitivity frequencies seems plausible.

The ringing could be considered to be a type of temporary tinnitis, and the relaxation oscillator mechanism could also be proposed for tinnitis as well. But there is a considerable body of information that suggests that the brain is involved in tinnitis, and that some of it occurs in the brain itself.

Any insights on this intriguing phenomena would be appreciated.


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