Are You Aware of ‘Hidden Hearing Loss?’

Hearing loss treatment has come a long way, but it’s a never-ending battle, especially when new ailments like this continue to creep up.

Are You Aware of ‘Hidden Hearing Loss?’

by | Sep 13, 2022 | Hearing Loss, Patient Resources

As dedicated audiologists and members of this community, we are devoted to diagnosing and treating all forms of hearing loss, including new ones that arise.

This is, unfortunately, the case with Hidden Hearing Loss. First discovered only ten years ago, studies are proving that this condition needs to be addressed as it’s showing us that our hearing is even more at risk than we initially thought.

Standard hearing tests cannot identify this, which is even more concerning. The audiological world makes changes and can adapt fast, but in the meantime, we want everyone to know about it now.

What Is Hidden Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is typically associated with damage to the hair cells that prevent signals from being transferred to the brain. This is something that we can test for and identify.

Hidden hearing loss is when there is damage to the synapses connecting the hair cells to the brain. This is why patients can pass a hearing assessment but then still struggle with hearing in loud environments.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most glaring symptom as of right now is when a patient complains about not being able to decipher conversation when there is background noise present. Busy restaurants or lively gatherings of any kind will make it hard for HHL patients to engage in conversation.

Yet, when you pull them aside to talk, there are no issues, and you do not have to raise your voice or speak slowly at all.

If this sounds familiar, then it’s essential to tell your audiologist so they can do a specific examination of your synapses. No standard test will be able to get results, so we must diagnose the old fashioned way by manually inspecting the area.

You may be susceptible to HHL if you are frequently exposed to loud noises. Studies have shown that damage can be caused to the synapses and not the hair cells.

If You’re Concerned About Whether or Not You Have HHL, Please Schedule an Appointment With Us Immediately.

How to Treat Hidden Hearing Loss

Studies are still in their infancy, and, currently, there is no standardized testing protocol that would identify HHL. Labs all over the world are working on it. First, we must detect the problem before we can start any treatment.

Right now, some patients are finding relief with the use of prescription hearing aids. The newer models are equipped to help users separate sounds they want to hear from sounds they don’t. The technology is quite astonishing, but it still won’t provide long-term relief.

Once the hearing is damaged, no matter the condition, it cannot be repaired. That’s why we always encourage everyone in Los Altos and Menlo Park to protect their hearing.

Prevention is our number one weapon against all things hearing loss, and despite how recent HHL is, we have determined that you can prevent it.

Mind your exposure to loud noises. If you know you will be visiting a loud environment, then please be prepared by bringing your own hearing protection. Small foam earplugs are a discreet and comfortable way to ensure your hearing stays healthy.

What to Do if You Suspect a Loved One Is Suffering

You may be able to help your loved ones before they even know there is a problem. Many patients could have HHL but not think anything of it because they just chalk it up to a noisy environment. 

If you can tell they are having a more difficult time than most, please bring them in for a consultation. We can perform a specialized assessment that will examine their synapses as well as test their listening skills. 

When looking for HHL, we will focus on background noise tests. We play sounds overlayed with different levels of white noise and then ask the patient to identify what was said. 

This helps us determine if the hearing loss issue is traditional damage to the hair cells or HHL damage to the synapses. If you have any questions, please contact us at your earliest convenience, don’t hesitate. 

No matter the issue, we are committed to helping everyone in our community improve their hearing and restore their lifestyles. We will stay on top of this new condition and any possible diagnostic findings.

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Gregory Frazer, PhD, AuD, CCC-A, ABA, NBC-HIS

Adjunct Professor UCSD/San Diego State U Audiology Program Adjunct Professor University of Pacific Audiology Program Adjunct Professor AT Still University Audiology Program Adjunct Professor Pacific University Audiology Program Dr. Gregory Frazer entered private practice Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensing in 1982. For 14 years he owned and operated Hearing Care Associates, which had 23 offices and was one of the largest audiology private practices in the U.S. Dr. Frazer is a well-known clinician and teacher and was the first audiologist to obtain dual doctorates in Audiology, both a PhD. in Audiology as well as the new Clinical Doctorate of Audiology, the AuD. He is Board Certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, American Academy of Audiology, and the National Certification in Hearing Instrument Sciences. Dr. Frazer specializes in the evaluation and treatment of vertigo, dizziness, and hearing and balance disorders. Dr. Frazer is experienced in working with infants, children, and adults. He is semi-fluent in Spanish and Sign Language.

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