Detecting Hearing Impairment through Novel Testing Methods
People are accustomed to the strange ringing sensation and muffled hearing after a visit to the football stadium to cheer on their favorite team. You think nothing about the difficulty in hearing for a couple of hours after the game because you feel it’s a normal part of an awesomely exciting game. However, even temporary exposure to such loud noises can cause lasting damage to your ears. Unfortunately, conventional hearing examinations are often unable to detect these hidden damages to the ears. This is why researchers have created a new testing method to help identify hidden forms of hearing loss.
Hearing impairment that goes undetected by regular audiograms is known as hidden impairment of hearing. People often get a nagging sensation that their hearing is not as good as it used to be, yet their hearing tests often come out normal. This can be an exasperating experience as you continue to struggle in order to hear properly.
The process of hearing is rather detailed and begins with sound vibrations that are transmitted to your inner ear. The hair follicles within your inner ear proceed to convert these vibrations into signals that are sent to your brain. Hearing loss can disrupt the functionality of the delicate hair follicles within the ears. This damage is what is detected during regular audiometry tests or hearing tests which use a wide range of sound levels ranging from low to high pitch.
The difference between regular hearing loss and hidden forms of hearing loss is that the hidden form involves damage that occurs to nerve cells within the inner ear that are responsible for transmitting sound signals to your brain. This causes difficulty in the identification of sound signals within the brain.
Problems with hidden forms of hearing impairment is that they are not detected during regular hearing tests since they can still identify sounds in both low as well as high pitches. This can produce erroneous normal results since regular hearing tests do not detect damage to nerve cells.
Hidden forms of hearing loss are hugely omitted when it comes to diagnosing a hearing problem. This form of hearing loss is usually experienced by younger people who are more likely to attend extremely loud recreational activities such as sporting events or music concerts. Hidden forms of hearing impairment also occur due to prolonged use of headphones while listening to music at a loud volume.
Neuroscientists at University of Connecticut have been creating new methods of testing hidden forms of hearing loss. Constantin Trahiotis as well as Leslie R. Bernstein both work at the Psychoacoustics Lab and have created a new hearing test that can help detect hidden forms of hearing loss.
This new testing method explores shifts in binaural volume which refers to changes in the hearing volume across both the ears. Disruption in binaural systems can lead to problems with
pinpointing sound signals, differentiating between speech and background noise, as well as picking out important sound signals. All of these difficulties indicate the presence of hidden forms of hearing impairment.
Hearing loss is already a huge problem in America, affecting millions within the American population, but hidden hearing impairment may be an even more widespread problem. Binaural testing methods can help detect hearing loss that is not detectable by regular hearing tests. This can help serve as an early detection method which can help those with hidden hearing impairment seek treatment at an earlier stage to prevent further hearing damage.