Detecting Hidden Hearing Loss

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Detecting Hidden Hearing Loss – Written by Dr. Matthew Seldine  Au.D, F-AAA

Professionals describe hearing loss as invisible, so what does the “hidden” part mean? How can something invisible also be hidden? Consider the following scenario: the patient walks into an audiology office complaining of hearing loss, specifically difficulty understanding speech especially with background noise. The patient, family and friends are sure of a hearing loss. Yet after a hearing exam, the results were in the normal hearing range.  How is that possible?

The origin of hidden hearing loss is in the connection of nerve cells with hair cells in the inner ear. Researchers have found that there are patients who suffer from primarily the damaged neural component only. This means that in quiet situations with little background noise or distractions these patients can hear, understand, and communicate without difficulty but when they find themselves in noisy environments they struggle with hearing.

There are many components that can go into the diagnosis of hidden hearing loss. They range from peripheral deficits (the inner ear), to central deficits (auditory processing in the brain), and even to non-auditory factors (non-related cognitive functioning and medicinal influences). Therefore, the evaluation of such patients may require more than a routine audiogram.

The good news, hidden hearing loss can be treated with multiple options available; hearing protection, auditory training, learning an instrument, basic communication strategies, implantation of healthy living, use of amplification, and use of a remote microphone. It is up to the audiologist and the patient to determine the best combination of treatment approaches.

The term might sound a little confusing but a person with hidden hearing loss may have difficulty hearing in noise and hear perfectly well in quiet listening environments. To learn more about this form of hearing loss, please call and schedule a discussion with an audiologist.


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