Do you suffer from hearing loss? If you answered no, are you sure? Ask yourself a different set of questions. Do you struggle to hear people talking in a busy restaurant? Do you have trouble focusing in a noisy setting? Do you often feel like you’re not understanding what’s being said when the room is not quiet? These are all signs of hidden hearing loss.
If you’ve suspected hearing loss, but passed an audiogram with flying colors, you’re not alone. A recent study found that out of more than 100,000 people over the age of 16 who complained of hearing difficulty when they visited an audiology clinic, 1 in 10 had normal audiograms. How could this be? It has to do with the way hidden hearing loss differs from ordinary types of hearing loss.
Hearing involves movement in the hair cells, called cilia, in the inner ear. These cells send signals to the auditory nerve, and these signals cross over synapses, which connect nerve cells. Typically, hearing loss is the result of damage to the hair cells or the nerve. Hidden hearing loss, however, happens because of a loss of synapses. This causes the signal to be incomplete, missing important information necessary for interpreting words. This is sometimes called cochlear synaptopathy.
It’s long been known that loud noises can destroy synapses. A study involving mice exposed them to 100-decibel noise for two hours. After that time, the hair cells were still intact, but half of the synapses were gone. Interestingly, humans who have lost synapses can often still hear the beep in a hearing test, even though it might not be possible for someone with cell or nerve damage.
Many researchers speculate that noise pollution and aging aggravate hidden hearing loss. We live in a noisy world, and all that noise has an impact on our hearing. Large crowds, mechanized devices, more background noise, and other environmental factors can take a toll, and it’s believed that long exposures to even low levels of noise can cause hidden hearing loss. Aging aggravates the problem because people lose synapses as they age. There’s also evidence that issues with the cells that make myelin, the substance that insulates brain cells in the ears, can compound hidden hearing loss.
Researchers are devising tests to accurately detect hidden hearing loss. For now, patients are diagnosed with a traditional hearing test, augmented by additional testing and a self-reporting questionnaire. There’s no treatment yet, though scientists are working on medications that would restore synapses. There are, however, state-of-the-art hearing aids that can help compensate for hidden hearing loss.
At Elite Hearing Centers of America, we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality service, industry leading products, and a no excuses 100% satisfaction guarantee. Founded by some of the industry’s most experienced private practice owners in the United States, we offer professional, compassionate care, providing high-quality hearing aids at affordable prices. Call us at 855-432-7354 or schedule a free hearing test and comprehensive hearing evaluation today.