Do you have trouble placing your coffee order with the barista at Skill of Strength during the morning rush? Do you have difficulty communicating in other settings with a lot of background noise? If so, you may have gone in for a hearing test and been surprised when the results indicated your hearing is normal.
If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing a condition called hidden hearing loss.
What Is Hidden Hearing Loss?
If you have hidden hearing loss, it means that your audiogram reflects normal hearing sensitivity, but a speech-in-noise test reveals a deficit.
Hidden hearing loss has a different underlying pathology than most cases of sensorineural hearing loss. Usually, hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells within the inner ear that convert soundwaves into electrical energy. This energy is then transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve to be interpreted as sound. But with hidden hearing loss, the stereocilia are healthy, and it is the auditory nerve that is damaged.
This means that while your ears can detect noise, the message the brain receives is compromised.
How Is Hidden Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
When you suspect you have hearing loss and schedule a hearing exam, your audiologist will administer a number of tests, including a pure tone audiometry test, and the results will be plotted on an audiogram – a visual representation of your hearing loss.
If the audiogram appears to be normal, they can then administer a speech-in-noise test, which entails listening to sentences that are played over background noise that you then repeat back. They may also administer an auditory brainstem response (ABR) test, which involves placing electrodes on the head that measure the auditory nerve’s response to sound.
How Is Hidden Hearing Loss Treated?
The gold standard treatment for hidden hearing loss is the use of hearing aids. Low-gain hearing aids with features such as background noise reduction have been shown to be especially effective for treating hidden hearing loss. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Columbia Hearing Centers today.