You notice that you’re starting to have trouble following conversations. Especially when you’re out somewhere loud or with a lot of background noise, like grabbing a burger with friends at Yard House. You prefer quiet spots to converse with people, so you don’t mishear them. Eventually, you get concerned enough to take a hearing test, but your results come back normal. What do you do?
For some people, this frustrating hypothetical is a reality, and it’s referred to as hidden hearing loss.
Hearing Loss vs Hidden Hearing Loss
While both hearing loss and hidden hearing loss have similar symptoms, people with hidden hearing loss will have normal hearing sensitivity across all frequency ranges on a pure tone audiometry test.
Pure tone audiometry tests use air conduction to measure your ability to hear sounds of various pitches (frequency) and volumes (loudness). Your results are charted on an audiogram, a graph that plots data about your hearing loss by comparing frequency with loudness. This helps your audiologist determine your hearing threshold.
Why Doesn’t Hidden Hearing Loss Show up on Audiogram?
Most times, sensorineural hearing loss is due to damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. These cells play a critical role in our ability to hear and once damaged cannot be repaired. However, in people with hidden hearing loss, these hair cells have experienced no damage, which is why hearing loss doesn’t show up on their audiogram.
Instead, in the case of hidden hearing loss, it’s likely that your auditory nerve fibers are damaged. This interferes with the connection between the brain and the ears, causing incomplete messages to be sent to the brain.
To diagnose hidden hearing loss, audiologists will have to rely on other tests. These include:
- Tests that evaluate your ability to separate speech from background noise.
- An auditory brainstem response test that measures your brainwave activity in response to sounds of varying intensities.
Living with Hidden Hearing Loss
Studies have shown that hearing loss of any kind can negatively impact quality of life, which is why it’s so important to get the care and attention you need if you’re suffering from it. Some possible treatment options your audiologist might recommend include hearing aids and assistive listening devices like personal amplifiers.
In addition to seeking care from a knowledgeable audiologist, you can take steps to make hearing easier in your day-to-day life.
- Pick quieter spots to meet up with friends or go to restaurants earlier to beat the crowds.
- Sit up close in lecture halls, at church, in work meetings or wherever it’s important for you to hear the speaker.
- Try your best not to isolate. Hearing loss can be a frustrating and lonely experience. It’s easy to want to keep to yourself, but not only is that bad for your mental and emotional well-being, but it can also worsen hearing loss as well.
Call Valley Audiology today for more information or to schedule an appointment.