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Hidden Hearing Loss

By: Paul Harrison Updated: 16th February 2021 in: Latest News, Articles
Hidden Hearing Loss

Hidden Hearing Loss

Is hidden hearing loss real?

What is hidden hearing loss?

We live in a noisy world.  You only have to walk down your street to experience the busy soundscape.  A soundscape your ears are accustomed to and – in short – is more harmful to your ear health than you would expect.  So harmful, in fact, that you might be losing your hearing and are completely unaware.

The most common is music.  The music we listen to on our daily commute can pulsate around 100 decibels straight from our smartphone into our ears.  This volume of music is safe for roughly ten minutes - but longer than that it can cause serious damage to our future hearing.

Let's put sound levels into perspective:

  • We all generally speak at what is considered to be a normal level of 60 decibels.
  • Car horns and ambulance or fire engine sirens can register at around 85 decibels.
  • Our busy London subway can reach 100. 

We are experiencing all these intense levels of sound daily and over time these levels can take its toll.  The noise we experience every day is becoming more and more of an issue and with serious implications to our general health.  This new wave of noise pollution is now grabbing people’s attention. However, how can it not when there are a steady increase in blood pressure levels, hypertension and stress levels, especially in occupational noise,  Along with these rising levels, the percentage of people who are diagnosed with tinnitus and hyperacusis is also on the same rising path.

Conventional hearing loss isn’t just down to age

Whilst the research into how noise damages our hearing continues, audiologists are experiencing a rise in a new type of hearing loss - hidden hearing loss.  What causes hidden hearing loss?  In simple terms, it means that your audiogram can relay completely normal results, but you could still have some level of hearing loss or damage. 

The common audiograms of today won’t flag up this type of hearing loss, as you are still able to hear various frequencies and volumes.  However, this doesn't mean that damage isn't there.  The loss becomes clear to the individual when struggling to hear and understand conversation in a loud environment. 

What causes hidden hearing loss?

Hearing loss is usually the result of the hair cells of the inner ear withering away over a period of time.  People with hidden hearing loss don’t have this problem and this is another reason why they can pass a hearing test.  What is damaged is the connection.  The synapses transmit the electrical signals of the sound you hear from the hair cells to the nerve cells in the brain.  It affects the quality of sound and how you understand it – especially speech in noise scenarios.

Those noisy sound levels we walk through constantly aren’t acknowledged as traumatic – but they are enough.  Living in a world that just keeps getting noisier means that hearing loss will present itself at younger ages and in different ways, whether it is hidden or not.

How to treat hidden hearing loss

There is no cure for hearing loss - no matter if it's hidden or not - but there are various ways in which you can treat it.  If you are concerned about your hearing - the quicker you seek medical help the more successful the treatment, like hearing aids, will be and ultimately your rehabilitation.  If you delay getting a hearing aid, you could be causing more damage to your hearing. Over time, without amplification, your perception of sound can change.

How can I protect my ears?

  1. Use earplugs around loud noises – These are easily obtained.  You can also have them custom-made by local audiologists.
  2. Turn the volume down and be responsible while you're enjoying your music – Follow the 60/60 rule and enjoy your music at no more than 60% volume for 60 minutes at a time.
  3. Give your ears a break – If you are at a live event or concert, give your ears some recovery time for five minutes every now and then.  Generally, after a night of loud exposure to sound, your ears need around 16 hours to recover.



 Read Next:  The Interview Sessions: Amrik Arora - The Ear Health Blogger

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Paul Harrison
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