Sound starts out as physical waves in the air, consisting of compressions and rarefactions of air molecules. When those air waves hit your eardrum, the eardrum actually moves. Next, the physical movement of the eardrum is transmitted to the bones -- the hammer, anvil, and stirrup -- of the middle ear, causing them to vibrate. When the hammer, anvil and stirrup vibrate, that motion gets transmitted to the liquid medium of the inner ear, and when the fluid of the inner ear is disturbed, it causes the hair cells of the inner ear to have an electrochemical response.
It is at that point in the system, when the hair cells react, that physical sound is translated into an electrochemical signal. In fact, you can say that there is no more "sound," in terms of physical motion, once you get to the hair cells. It is all electrochemical signaling, from one neuron to another, from then on. The electrochemical signal travels from the hair cells of the inner ear to the auditory cortex of the brain, where it gets interpreted into what we subjectively experience as hearing music or hearing a knock on the door or hearing a voice speaking to us, or whatever we hear. No one really knows how the final interpretation, at the level of the cortex, actually happens.
But it is the hair cells, which are very specialized sensory neurons, that are damaged by prolonged and excessively loud noise. To the extent that they are damaged or killed off, no more sound is transmitted any further into the brain. So the answer to your question is no, there is no way for a person to have brain damage from excessively loud noise, because the hair cells will be damaged first, and at that point, the signal is lost. The whole process hits a dead end when it hits dead hair cells.
Did you have a bet?.
Excessively loud music is going to damage the hair cells of the inner ear first. Once that has happened, I don't see how the sound signal can be transmitted any farther into the brain.
Well, I mean, it will, but it won't be excessively loud anymore, because the hair cells will have been damaged. My two cents, anyway.
I mean are the vibration from the sound excessive enough to the point where they kill neurons? I don't mean the actual electrical signal being transmitted to where it kills the neurons. Basically from the shock of the sound are neurons besides the ones in the ear going to die?
Thanks a lot. You have answered my question better than anyone else. There was no bet.
Now, if you're talking about a pressure wave from an explosion, that can definitely cause brain damage, but it's not because of the noise. That type of injury is caused by a wall of high barometric pressure that blows out from the point of the explosion. A strong blast wave can cause bleeding and physical damage to any of the body's organ systems (and not just the brain). Perhaps that is where some people get the idea that noise can cause brain damage, but it's not really the noise of the explosion that does it; it's the physical force of the blast wave that causes the injury. It's not really the same phenomenon as listening to loud music for too long.
Okay. Yeah loud bass sounds like explosions, but it is probably nowhere near the strength.
Correct, and loud brass does not have the sudden, intense percussive effect of a TNT explosion at close range.