Hidden Hearing Loss: A Tough Diagnosis

ahg-hidden-hearing-lossHearing loss is becoming all too common among the younger generation these days. Children, teens and young adults are being impacted by hidden hearing loss more frequently than ever. Hearing loss is more often associated with aging, however there are many other complications that can cause hearing loss; head trauma, noise, age, ototoxic medications, illness, tumors and so much more. When someone suspects that they may be suffering from hearing loss, the first step is to visit a doctor. An audiologist can measure hearing with an audiogram or other hearing assessment. The problem for individuals suffering from hidden hearing loss, however is that their results often look normal; hence the name hidden hearing loss.smartphone-923081_1280

In a normal ear, sound waves are transmitted through the middle ear bones to the inner ear, where they cause vibrations in the hair cells. These vibrations transform the signals via the nerve cells into electrical pulses which are sent to the brain.  Hidden hearing loss is often caused by loud noise. Loud noise can damage hair cells in your inner ear, as well as the ear’s nerve cells. It is much harder to identify specific sounds in loud environments when those nerve cells are damaged. The nerve cells lose their connection with the hair cells, so they cannot send information to the brain. As a result, your brain receives less information from the ear and/or poor quality information. Consequently, the brain struggles to interpret the information correctly; the main symptom of hidden hearing loss.

An individual with hidden hearing loss doesn’t usually have a problem hearing soft or isolated sounds. This is why a typical hearing test fails to diagnose it. It will become evident when you are attempting to listen to several conversations as once. You will also notice it more if there is a lot of background noise. Even though hidden hearing loss cannot be measured with a standard hearing test, our audiologists can help.

We have the technology and expertise to both diagnose and treat hidden hearing loss, something that is as common as it is under-diagnosed. Many young people are damaging their hearing because they fail to protect it when they are around loud noises, or subject their ears to extended periods of time listening to loud music through their headphones.

According to a recent article from Scientific American, individuals who have hidden hearing loss when they are younger, may suffer from more severe hearing loss as they get older. If you think that you may have hidden hearing loss, you should consult your doctor or contact one of our audiologists to get started on a treatment plan. Hearing loss negatively impacts your quality of life when left untreated – don’t wait too long to see your doctor, do something about it now.

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