Hidden Hearing Loss | Protect Hearing Today for Better Hearing Health Tomorrow
Many are unaware that unhealthy listening habits such as exposure to loud noise can cause long lasting, irreversible damage to hearing. It can cause what is known as Hidden Hearing Loss, which cannot be detected in an ordinary hearing test but is already affecting hearing for life. This World Hearing Day, with the theme ‘To hear for life, listen with care’, Oticon is raising awareness of the importance of taking care of hearing to reduce the risk of permanent damage and early hearing loss.
With Hidden Hearing Loss, many experience hearing difficulties without a diagnosed hearing loss. It could also:
• contribute to accelerated age-related hearing loss[i]
• and because hearing loss is a significant risk factor for early cognitive decline and dementia , could affect brain health in the elderly community[ii]
• relate to the development of tinnitus[iii]
Many people with seemingly normal hearing abilities struggle to understand speech in noisy environments. This World Hearing Day, Hearing aid manufacturer, Oticon, explains that this could be due to Hidden Hearing Loss. A new area of hearing research, Hidden Hearing Loss presents as hearing difficulties in noise. It is an early form of hearing loss which is undetectable in traditional hearing tests, and the first stage towards poor hearing in the future. Evidence is emerging to show that taking steps to change the unhealthy listening habits, which contribute to Hidden Hearing Loss, could help prolong good hearing for much longer, which in turn could see many reducing their risk of consequential conditions such as age-related hearing loss, social isolation and dementia[iv].
With the theme of World Hearing Day “To hear for life, listen with care”, this March, World Health Organisation (WHO) is highlighting the importance of safe listening for the prevention of the common causes of hearing loss. The annual awareness day endeavors to help reduce the increasing number of people affected by preventable hearing loss around the world. Whether due to noise, or an ageing society, the World Health Organization predicts that nearly 2.5 billion people will have some degree of hearing loss by 2050[v].
Hidden Hearing Loss is a term used when people report to not being able to hear well, but no problems are detected in a traditional hearing test or hearing assessment. Although the cause of Hidden Loss is not 100% clear, emerging evidence points to the slow progression of dysfunction and damage to inner hair cells and auditory nerve fibres in the ear which can be attributed to ageing and typically accelerated by exposure to loud noise. By the time hearing loss can be detected, it is already permanent, which is why it is important to take care of your hearing.
Many will have experienced temporary hearing damage after being at a loud event, such as a concert. This can be experienced as ringing in the ears and even hearing loss. Normal hearing usually returns after a short period, but ongoing exposure to loud noise causes irreversible damage. The bounce back to normal hearing becomes slower and could even eventually fail. This damage is a known cause of Hidden Hearing Loss. The World Health Organization sites that over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices[vi].
“Maintaining good hearing habits to prevent Hearing Loss, including Hidden Hearing Loss, could ensure hearing longevity in later life,” says Thomas Behrens, Chief of Audiology, Oticon. “The most noteworthy message coming from research into Hidden Hearing Loss and hearing loss in general, is that we must be more protective of our hearing health to enjoy normal hearing for longer. When doing a traditional hearing test, Hidden Hearing Loss is not detected, as a person’s hearing thresholds are within normal range. If a problem cannot be detected, then it is difficult to recognise that it exists. Hidden Hearing Loss shows just how important it is to take precautions to prevent the problem before it arises. The best way to protect yourself from a Hidden Hearing Loss and protect your hearing for the future, is to be mindful of safe listening. Research also shows that an insult to hearing is not “forgotten”, so all the excess exposure to loud sound levels add up over the lifetime. Protect your hearing when loud noise is unavoidable, and you will preserve your hearing health for longer.”
For more information on preventing hearing loss visit: Oticon
500 million people worldwide suffer from hearing loss. The majority are over the age of 50 while eight percent are under the age of 18. Oticon’s vision is to create a world where people are no longer limited by hearing loss. A world where hearing aids fit seamlessly into life and help people realise their full potential, while avoiding the health consequences of hearing loss. Oticon develops and manufactures hearing aids for both adults and children and supports every kind of hearing loss from mild to profound and we pride ourselves on developing some of the most innovative hearing aids in the market. Headquartered in Denmark, we are a global company and part of Demant with more than 16,500 employees and revenues of around DKK 15 billion. Changing technology. Changing conventions. Changing lives. Oticon – Life-changing hearing technology.
i Wu et al.2018: Primary neural degeneration in the human cochlea: Evidence for hidden hearing loss in the aging ear
ii Livingston et al. 2017: Dementia prevention, intervention, and care.
iii Epp et al. 2012: Increased intensity discrimination thresholds in tinnitus subjects with a normal audiogram.
iv Kohrman et al. 2020: Hidden Hearing Loss: A Disorder with Multiple Etiologies and Mechanisms
Source: The PR Room