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Hidden Hearing Loss?

 4 min read

What Is Hidden Hearing Loss?

It's important to draw attention to a topic that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves – hidden hearing loss. Hidden hearing loss is a condition that isn’t usually detected in typical hearing tests. Even so, it is nothing to be trifled with.

People first notice they’re having trouble hearing when they find themselves asking, “What?” over and over again during conversations. This is especially true over the phone or in loud places. Or perhaps they find themselves asking for the television volume to be turned up, and up again, and up again.

hidden hearing lossOften, the person living with a hearing issue may not realize they have a problem at all. Their loved ones do. But despite being urged to call a specialist, they don’t. People with hearing issues are reluctant to seek help for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they can hear just fine in a quiet setting. Sometimes it’s because they’re reluctant to admit they’re aging. Other times they think hearing aids cost too much money, and falsely believe they will be too complicated to use. Fear not, we are here to bring you in on a secret of the hearing aid industry: it doesn’t have to be a difficult process.

It takes an average of seven years for most people with hearing loss to finally visit a doctor for hearing exams. Sometimes, the patient passes the initial hearing exams, often to the shock of their loved ones. People who pass hearing exams, yet continue to struggle to have conversations (especially in noisy environments), may have “hidden hearing loss.”

The person does indeed have auditory issues, but it’s just not easily detected in the most common tests for hearing loss.

Can Hearing Exams Detect Hidden Hearing Loss?

Yes, the right tests can. But the right tests aren’t the first ones doctors usually use. The first hearing test doctors usually try is called a “pure tone” hearing exam. You may remember this test from grade school. You put on earphones and raise your left or right hand whenever you hear a tone in that ear.

This is what many people with hidden hearing loss pass with flying colors. But alas, these are typically done where? In a peaceful, quiet doctors office! So they go home, confident they aren’t suffering from any hearing issues and tell their loved ones to stop worrying. And suddenly, they find themselves unable to understand what others are saying the next time they’re in a restaurant or at a party. 

If the problems persist, the person ideally will visit a doctor again. This time, doctors should next try “words in noise” or “sentences in noise” tests. This hearing exam requires patients to listen to recorded conversations in increasingly loud settings.

There are other hearing exams that can potentially detect hidden hearing loss, including:

  • otoscopy
  • tympanometry
  • acoustic reflexes
  • diagnostic distortion product otoacoustic emissions
  • extended high-frequency audiometry
  • air, bone, and speech reception
  • auditory brainstem response

After examining the results of some or all of these tests, the doctor should be able to identify the cause of the hearing loss. In normal hearing loss, the problem is usually that there’s damage to hair cells or auditory nerves. However, hidden hearing loss stems from a slightly different issue. There’s no damage to the cells or nerves, but rather to the synapses between the cells and nerves.

ability to hear

What Causes Hidden Hearing Loss?

Hidden hearing loss is caused by many of the same things that cause more common forms of hearing loss. 

The causes include:

  • aging
  • repeated exposure to loud noises
  • a lack of myelin, a substance that insulates cells in the ear

Can Hearing Be Restored?

People with hidden hearing loss may wonder if their hearing can be restored. This question is often amplified because the root causes of their issues are sometimes different from those suffering from ordinary hearing loss.

It depends on what the patient means by “restored.” If you want to hear the way you did between the ages of 18 and 25, when most people hear the best, that may not happen. But, if you are gentle and patient with yourself, you can still live a full life. 

Researchers are currently working on developing medications and technology that will repair the spaces between hearing cells and nerves. Before those medications are approved, you can certainly hear better with the right auditory devices. If you are searching for an easy-to-use, affordable option, here at Soundwave we offer  Sontro® Self-Fitting OTC Hearing Aids. 

When used in conjunction with our The otoTune® app on your phone, these OTC hearing aids can customize your hearing in a short three-minute test. Then the aids adjust themselves accordingly.

hearing lossIn a loud place, the Sontro OTC Hearing Aids use directional microphones and advanced signal processing to make soft sounds – like spoken words – louder. The microphones and signals also make loud noises – like background music – softer. We want to help people with hidden hearing loss live normal and happy lives. The technology and devices are user-friendly

Feel free to take our online hearing test to assess your needs and see if our OTC hearing aids are the right solution for you. Plus, you can reach out to write or talk about your situation! You can trust us. We’re a Chicago-based company with an advisory and leadership team that include engineers and business people with extensive experience in the world of hearing care. We promise that we’ll hear you and help you.