How Can Hidden Hearing Loss Be Detected and Treated?

by | Jan 20, 2023 | Client Resources, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss

Whether hearing loss occurs as part of the aging process, lifestyle or occupation, or even genetics, it can be tough to deal with the loss of something many of us rely on so heavily in daily life.

While most people can have a regular hearing test and get a quick diagnosis and treatment, occasionally, hearing loss can be difficult to detect and diagnose, even with a standard hearing test.

You or a loved one may have partaken in a hearing evaluation and been told that hearing abilities are “within normal limits,” but hearing issues are still persisting, especially in noisy environments. This is called hidden hearing loss (HHL).

What Is Hidden Hearing Loss?

Hidden hearing loss refers to any type of hearing loss that is not detectable through routine diagnostic testing. The results of the audiogram may even show normal hearing sensitivities at all frequencies.

Typical hearing loss often revolves around damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, which are responsible for detecting sounds to be passed on and interpreted by the brain.

When hidden hearing loss occurs, the hair cells in the ear are generally unharmed, which is why the audiogram comes back normal. Instead, the damage is to the auditory nerve fibres responsible for carrying sound messages to the brain, and basic hearing tests don’t look for this.

Hidden Hearing Loss Symptoms

While there is no official set of fixed symptoms that occur with hidden hearing loss, there are some common signs to be on the lookout for:

  • Being easily distracted or having difficulty focusing in busy environments
  • Feeling more comfortable in quiet surroundings for social interaction
  • Difficulty interpreting and understanding speech or mishearing words and sentences
  • Belief that hearing loss is an issue even after passing standard testing
  • Increased sensitivity to sound
  • Tinnitus

Causes of Hidden Hearing Loss

Whatever the external factors may be, the result is damage to the nerve cells in the ear. This makes it challenging to discern specific sounds in noisy or active environments.

Nerve cells lose their connection to hair cells in the ear, disrupting the path of communication. This broken path results in incomplete information reaching the brain, making accurate interpretation of the sounds more difficult.

Causes include:

  • Persistent exposure to loud noise – one study found that college students who always wore ear protection when in loud noise environments had better auditory nerve health.
  • Advanced age
  • Prolonged exposure to low-level noise
  • Brain injuries and head trauma
  • Autoimmune disorders that cause damage to neuronal axons, auditory fibres and sensory cells
  • Ototoxic medications – medications that are known to damage the auditory system

Sadly, even if a person wears ear protection regularly after experiencing loud noise exposure early in life, age-related hearing loss is accelerated because of it.

A Better Hearing Loss Test

Hear at Home can come to you for your hearing loss test, and we can do a number of tests to see what’s affecting your ability to hear well.

  • The first step is to take a standard hearing test to make sure the results indicate that hearing abilities fall within normal limits.
  • The next step involves testing for speech detection in noisy settings as well as high-frequency audiometry. These tests often involve repeating back statements given in varying levels of background noise.
  • Hidden hearing loss may also be detected with an auditory brainstem response test (ABR).

Hearing Loss Treatment

Once hidden hearing loss has been accurately diagnosed by a professional, there may be a few options for treating the problem. The most widely used treatment is hearing aids, in particular, hearing aids with noise reduction capabilities and speech-in-noise settings.

Hearing aids with speech-in-noise settings use directional microphones to focus on sound signals that are close to you, while reducing background noise.

Assistive listening devices also may be helpful, such as a personal FM system or a mobile app that provides live captioning for active conversations.

Many times, the hearing loss is due to a medical issue in the brain that needs to be treated, in which case, we will refer you to a trusted specialist to make sure you are getting all the medical help you need.

Hidden hearing loss might be partially reversible. One promising study has shown that it might be possible in the future to repair the nerve damage using neurotrophin-based therapies.

Get a Professional Hearing Test at Home in the Vancouver Area

Our Hear at Home Mobile hearing clinic can come to the location of your choice and perform an accurate series of tests to find out what the issues are with your hearing. We can give you the results immediately and then recommend your next steps.

Even if a previous hearing test has shown that your hearing seems normal, we’ll keep trying different types of tests to find out where the issue is and what we can do to help.

Book your hearing test at home here. We’ll find the problem and get you back to enjoying all your conversations and sounds around you once again.

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Jennifer Abbott

Jennifer Abbott brings over 25 years of experience in business. She has worked in multiple industries, including insurance brokerage, aviation, and health. Her career journey enabled her to acquire impeccable skills to help people find solutions in any situation. Jennifer is well travelled. She has lived and worked in Dubai for award-winning Emirates Airline. Jennifer has enjoyed working in a multicultural environment. Her offshore work empowered her to learn about various cultures from over 100 different nationalities. Upon her return home, Jennifer pursued her studies as a Hearing Aid Practitioner. While working in a hearing clinic, she became aware of some people’s challenges getting to their appointment. She realized that those people were not getting the proper hearing aid help they needed, which compromised their hearing. People’s struggles inspired her to establish the first unique 100% mobile hearing clinic in the lower mainland. As the founder of Hear at Home Mobile Hearing Clinic, Jennifer’s mission is to improve her client’s quality of life at any age. She has in-depth experience with hearing testing fitting, recommending hearing aids and working with older populations suffering from cognitive decline and Dementia.

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