Approximately 15% of American adults aged 18 and over report having trouble hearing, but for some of them, a conventional hearing test may not indicate any problem. Hearing loss can range in severity, which can make it difficult to diagnose if your symptoms are still mild. Luckily, your audiologist will have several tests to ensure you get the most comprehensive evaluation.

What is hearing loss?

When you hear a noise, the sound waves pass into your ear canal, causing your eardrum to vibrate. The vibration of your eardrum then travels through three small bones in the middle ear and on to the cochlea. The cochlea, located in your inner ear, is a spiral structure and is home to over 15,000 sensory hair cells that convert sound waves into electronic signals that can be transmitted through your auditory nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. Hearing loss involves a problem with one or more parts of this process. In general, there are two main types of hearing loss, conductive and sensorineural. 

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot pass from the outer ear into the inner ear. One of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss is earwax build up, but it can also be caused by an ear infection of a perforated eardrum.

Sensorineural hearing loss involves damage to the hair cells or to the auditory nerve that is responsible for sending electronic signals to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss can be acquired or congenital with the main causes of acquired sensorineural hearing loss being age and exposure to loud noises.  

What is the standard hearing test?

The most common form of hearing test used to detect hearing loss is the audiometry test. During an audiometry test, the test subject is played a series of tones of varying volumes and pitches and is asked to identify if they can hear them or not. Although very commonly used, an audiometry test is not the only assessment an audiologist uses to determine if you have hearing loss.

What should you do if you experience hearing loss and pass a standard hearing test?

If you have passed a standard hearing test but still have problems hearing, talk to the audiologist more about your symptoms. The audiologist will consider your family's medical background, as well as what signs you are exhibiting, and may recommend additional tests, including, but not limited to:

  • Tympanometry
  • Air-conduction testing
  • Speech testing
  • Acoustic reflex measures
  • Auditory brainstem response
  • Otoacoustic emissions

What is hidden hearing loss?

Hidden hearing loss was a term first coined in 2011 by researchers at University College London and refers to a number of hearing difficulties that are not detectable via standard hearing tests. Many people who experience hidden hearing loss have trouble with complex listening tasks, such as understanding a conversation in a loud environment, but may not have any issue hearing quiet sounds in a quiet environment, meaning that their standard audiometry test comes back fine. 

What are the symptoms of hidden hearing loss?

There are several symptoms of hidden hearing loss, including:

  • Passing a standard audiometry test and still having trouble hearing:  The number one symptom that you may have hidden hearing loss is that you have passed a standard pure tone audiometry test but still have problems hearing. 
  • Difficulty with conversations in loud rooms: Another common symptom of hidden hearing loss is having trouble understanding conversations when there is background noise but being able to hear fine if the room were quiet. 
  • Finding it hard to understand the TV even when the volume is loud: The volume of your television can also indicate hidden hearing loss as those who experience it often have their television up very loud and yet still find it difficult to understand what is being said. 

What should you do if you think that you are experiencing hidden hearing loss?

If you have passed a standard pure tone audiometry test but feel you still have problems hearing, then you may be living with hidden hearing loss. Find the answers you need and get the help you deserve by contacting Quality Hearing Aid Center at (248) 430-8791.