Hidden hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that cannot be measured by the most common hearing test. For someone with this type of loss, their tests show no hearing loss.
The cochlea is filled with tiny hair cells. These tiny hair cells are connected to tiny nerve cells. When sound enters the ear, the tiny hair cells move which send a signal to the tiny nerve cells that tell the brain you are hearing a sound.
With sensorineural hearing loss (think age related hearing loss) the hair cells in your inner ear are damaged. Damaged hair cells have a difficult time telling your brain what you are hearing. This is because they don’t move well.
But, with hidden hearing loss, the hair cells are healthy. What’s damaged is the nerve cells. They have lost their connections with the hair cells, so they cannot send signals to the brain. As a result, the brain receives lesser and poorer information from the ear. Therefore, it struggles to interpret the information correctly. This is why those with hidden hearing loss may struggle to understand speech.
A recent small study of college kids sheds light on the issue of hidden hearing loss. 35% of the test subjects (mostly Audiology students) regularly protected their hearing while 65% of the subjects (mostly pop music students) were not as careful.
Both groups had normal standard hearing tests that showed no hearing loss. But when the scientists looked at the kids’ brains, the pop music students showed more signal from the hair cells compared with their nerve cells.
In other words, some of the message was getting lost.
These subjects couldn’t recognize words as well when there was background noise or an echo, or when the sound was sped up.
So, if you feel you hear well, but are struggling with understanding conversations, a hidden hearing loss may be the culprit.
The first step in addressing this issue is to see an experienced Doctor of Audiology, like the providers here at Lemme Audiology Associates. Here, your questions will be answered, your hearing issues will be addressed, and we will help guide you onto the path of healthy hearing.
To have a consultation with one of our Audiologists, call (814) 941-7770