• Long-term effects of noise;
  • Auditory processing;
  • Sound discrimination;
  • Distractibility;
  • Mismatch negativity;
  • N2b


Long-term exposure to noise impairs human health, causing pathological changes in the inner ear as well as other anatomical and physiological deficits. Numerous individuals are daily exposed to excessive noise. However, there is a lack of systematic research on the effects of noise on cortical function. Here we report data showing that long-term exposure to noise has a persistent effect on central auditory processing and leads to concurrent behavioral deficits. We found that speech-sound discrimination was impaired in noise-exposed individuals, as indicated by behavioral responses and the mismatch negativity brain response. Furthermore, irrelevant sounds increased the distractibility of the noise-exposed subjects, which was shown by increased interference in task performance and aberrant brain responses. These results demonstrate that long-term exposure to noise has long-lasting detrimental effects on central auditory processing and attention control.