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Do You Suffer from Hidden Hearing Loss?

by April Maguire

If you think you're immune from hearing loss simply because you're young, then think again. For the last several years, hearing specialists have been warning about an increase in hearing loss among Millennials, so the problem doesn't only affect the AARP crowd. Perhaps even scarier though is the fact that millions of people suffer from diminished hearing ability and they don't even realize it, due to a condition known as hidden hearing loss.

Hidden Hearing Loss Explained

When people talk about hearing loss, they typically talk about an overall diminished ability to hear and process auditory information. This type of traditional hearing loss can be easily measured by audiologists, and corrective measures, such as hearing assistive devices, can be deployed to help people regain some of their hearing ability.

Hidden hearing loss, on the other hand, is different. Surprisingly, people who have this kind of hearing loss are capable of passing traditional hearing tests. That's because there isn't anything wrong with their overall ability to take in sounds from the world around them. Where they run into problems, however, is when they have to process specific sounds within noisy environments.

Have you ever struggled to hear your dinner companion in a crowded, noisy restaurant? If so, that might be indicative of hidden hearing loss. And although this condition was only uncovered recently, scientists are starting to understand more about what causes it.

The Root of Hidden Hearing Loss

At present, there are two known causes of hidden hearing loss. The first revolves around noise-induced hearing loss, which has been on the rise for the last two decades. With this type of hearing loss, exposure to loud noises damages the hair cells within the inner ear. Once these cells are damaged, it can limit your ability to parse specific sounds amidst a barrage of auditory information, which is the hallmark of hidden hearing loss.

The other cause of this condition was recently detailed in a research article published in Nature Communications. According to the researchers, hidden hearing loss can be the result of a deficiency of what are known as Schwann cells, which form the building blocks of myelin in the body. Without the necessary myelin to protect the neuronal axons in the ear, sound information can get garbled, leading to hidden hearing loss.

Unfortunately, more research is needed before hearing specialists fully understand the causes of hidden hearing loss. But as the condition becomes better understood, audiologists will find more effective ways of identifying it and reversing it.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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