Posted on: November 21, 2016

Have difficulty hearing in background noise but have been told your hearing is ‘normal?’ Recent research suggests noise can damage our hearing in such a way that we pass a hearing test, but have difficulty understanding speech when background noise is present, such as in a noisy restaurant.

Some hearing health professionals are referring to this as hidden hearing loss, because it doesn’t show up on a test, but has real world consequences. Standard hearing loss typically damages the cells in our inner ear causing us to have trouble picking up sounds. With hidden hearing loss it is thought that the cells themselves aren’t damaged, but the synapses or connections between the cells. When this happens sounds become harder to process, so it becomes difficult to pick out speech from background noise when both are present.

While this research is in its early stages, the researchers suggest hearing aids may help some people who are experiencing hidden hearing loss.

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Original research: