Researchers at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in the US have developed a test that can identify hidden hearing loss.
A hidden hearing loss is a type of hearing loss that cannot be measured by the most common hearing tests and for people with hidden hearing loss, their audiogram looks as it does for someone with normal hearing.
"We now have a validated technique to identify 'hidden' hearing deficits that would likely go undetected with traditional audiograms," said Leslie R. Bernstein, professor of neuroscience and surgery at UConn, who conducted the study with Constantine Trahiotis, emeritus professor of neuroscience and surgery.
The developed test to identify a hidden hearing loss measures a person’s ability to detect across-ears (binaural) changes in sounds presented at levels of loudness that are close to those experienced in normal conversations. The binaural system plays an important role in the ability to localize sounds and to understand conversations in places with background noise such as bars and restaurants and to attend to one of multiple, simultaneous sounds.
About hidden hearing loss
A hidden hearing loss is caused by noise that has damaged the nerve cells that connect the cochlea in the inner ear to the brain and the nerve cells’ ability to send information to the brain is reduced. The brain then receives lesser and poorer information from the ear.
Hearing loss more widespread
Bernstein notes that acquired hearing loss from excessive noise has long been known to produce significant and sometimes debilitating hearing deficits (e.g. noise-induced hearing loss). The research suggests that hearing loss may be even more widespread than previously thought.
About the study
The researchers studied 31 adults ages 30 to 67 with a normal or near-normal audiogram. They found that listeners who have essentially normal clinical hearing test results may exhibit substantial deficits in binaural processing.
The results of the study were published in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.
Sources: today.uconn.edu, upi.com and sciencedaily.com