Noise and the Brain: Experience Dependent Developmental and Adult Plasticity - Jos J. Eggermont. Academic Press, 2013
By Robert V. Harrison
This single-author book can be considered to be like a bible on issues of acoustic noise effects on health. When I say a bible, I mean an authoritative and comprehensive tome. Those who know Jos Eggermont will be aware that he has an encyclopedic mind when it comes to all things auditory. From his years as editor of the journal Hearing Research as well as a long, productive scientific career in auditory neuroscience, he has kept all of the important findings in his head as well as much of the minutia. In this volume he has spilled out all of this accumulated knowledge in a systematic way.
A brief glance at the contents page immediately shows the scope of this book. The core of the book focuses on noise-induced hearing loss and, perhaps unique to this book, considerations of “non-damaging sound” on brain function. This is an important topic and one that Eggermont himself explored in many research experiments. The “standard” reviews of the health effects of noise focus on sensorineural hearing loss, cochlear damage, and/or peripheral auditory neuropathy. Other review volumes cover psychophysical or psychological effects of noise. This volume covers these issues as well as important bits in the middle, i.e. central auditory brain changes that can result from noise exposure.
One reason why this book is so comprehensive across different academic fields is because Eggermont has demonstrated expertise in numerous scientific domains. He is a “hard science” physicist and a systems theory modeler; he is a behavioural scientist (psychophysics), a physiologist, and he understands and contributes to clinical audiology and neurology. A book of this scope is realizable because he has an intuition and understanding of every detail of the papers that he reviews. In addition to the scope of the book across the spectrum – etiology of noise induced hearing loss, central auditory brain changes, audiological testing, prevention of noise damage – he adds a temporal dimension with a satisfactory and substantial discussion of noise effects during early development, through to noise effects in the aging brain.
I have one major criticism of this book. I cannot understand why Eggermont decided not to put the word “acoustic” in front of “noise” in the book title. When I was first asked to review the book, I saw the title and immediately thought that this was perhaps about noise in a systems theory sense or about signal to noise issues in brain electrophysiology (both of which were areas of research for Eggermont). Only upon opening the book did it become clear to me that it was about acoustic noise. With this title, many working in clinical or research fields may not immediately recognize this book as relevant. And if that happens, it would be unfortunate, because this book has much to offer to clinicians (audiologists, otologists), basic and applied scientists, and public health policy experts.