It’s not uncommon for people to experience trouble hearing, yet still pass a hearing test when they go in to be tested by an audiologist. This phenomenon is known as hidden hearing loss, and unfortunately it’s not well-understood by medical experts. However, a recent study has identified two biomarkers that could aid in the diagnosis of hidden hearing disorders.
What Are Biomarkers?
Biomarkers, short for biological markers, are objective measures that can show what’s going on in a cell or organism at a given moment. For example, during a physical exam when your doctor takes your weight and blood pressure, they are using biomarkers to determine your risk of cardiovascular problems.
Biomarkers can also be used to help researchers better understand the relationships between human biology, diseases and the environment. For example, a biomarker can indicate whether overexposure to vehicle exhaust is linked to respiratory disease for people living near Interstate 90.
About the Study
Research was conducted by Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Researchers analyzed data from more than 100,000 patient records and found that one in ten patients who visited the university’s audiology clinic with complaints about poor hearing produced normal audiograms when tested.
Twenty-three young and middle-age adults with normal audiograms were brought in for further testing. The first test measured electrical signals from the surface of the ear in order to capture how the earliest stages of sound processing within the brain encode fluctuations in soundwaves. The second used special glasses to measure changes in pupil diameter while participants focused on a speaker as others talked in the background.
The data from these tests indicated which adults could and which could not follow speech in an environment with background noise. These results are significant because they pave the way for future clinical tests of hidden hearing disorders.
According to senior study author Daniel Polley, “If our ability to converse in social settings is part of our hearing health, then the tests that are used have to go beyond the very first stages of hearing and more directly measure auditory processing in the brain.” For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Columbia Hearing Centers today.