Hidden hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that isn’t detectable with a traditional hearing test. Many people with hidden hearing loss become frustrated because they frequently misunderstand people and cannot hear well in background noise but produce a normal audiogram. Below we review what exactly hidden hearing loss is and how it’s treated.
What Causes Hidden Hearing Loss?
Hidden hearing loss is usually caused exposure to loud noise.
In most cases of sensorineural hearing loss, the tiny hair cells within the inner ear that convert soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound – known as stereocilia – are what is damaged.
However, in cases of hidden hearing loss, it is not the hair cells that are damaged, but rather the fibers of the auditory nerve, which is the passageway for sound from the ears to the brain. In this case, the brain is receiving a compromised sound signal.
What Are the Symptoms of Hidden Hearing Loss?
Unfortunately, there are no established guidelines for diagnosing hidden hearing loss. However, some signs to look out for include:
- A strong feeling that you have hearing loss, even if you’ve passed a hearing test.
- Preferring to have conversations in quiet settings over settings with background noise like Café A La C’art.
- Feeling easily distracted or having trouble focusing in noisy settings.
- Frequently mishearing people.
How Is Hidden Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
If you’re exhibiting the signs of hearing loss, your audiologist will first conduct a standard hearing test. If the audiogram – which is a visual representation of your hearing loss – appears normal, they can then conduct a speech-in-noise test. This involves listening to and repeating back sentences that are played or uttered over various levels of background noise.
Another test that is used to diagnose hidden hearing loss is Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR) testing. This type of test entails placing electrodes on the head and monitoring the auditory nerve’s response to sounds that are played through headphones.
How Is Hidden Hearing Loss Treated?
Hidden hearing loss is treated with the use of hearing aids. Low-gain hearing aids with background noise suppression have been shown to be especially effective for this type of hearing loss.
For more information about hidden hearing loss or to schedule an evaluation with an audiologist, call Arizona Hearing Specialists today.