What is Hidden Hearing Loss?

Posted by Sasha Hodes on Jan 21, 2020 10:34:10 AM

Imagine being out with friends or family at a pub or cafe. Everyone is naturally in a chatty jubilant mood. Conversation is flowing quickly and easily between them. Everything seems ideal, except that it isn’t for an individual with Hidden Hearing Loss. They have in fact stopped following the conversation half an hour ago, nodding along as if they understand the jumble of loud sounds before them. With the background noise and reverberation of the establishment, it’s impossible to make out the words unless they concentrate a huge deal. But the mental energy of maintaining this listening effort is exhausting, and before long they just want to go home and rest. To get away from the noise and confusion.

The next day, in the quiet environment of their home, the individual with Hidden Hearing Loss follows and understands conversation perfectly, catching each word said with ease and minimal effort. But they are still concerned about their hearing, and so heads off to the local audiologist for a check-up. They pass the audiogram with flying colours - “you’re general hearing is fine,” the audiologist says, “there’s nothing I can do for you.”

So what does this mean?

What is Hidden Hearing Loss?

Simply put, Hidden Hearing Loss is when you struggle to hear speech in noise1. It is largely caused by extended exposure to noise1. This is especially the case for people involved in nightlife, music, construction and with young people who are constantly blasting their music on full volume5. This noise causes damage to the connections between auditory nerves and sound detecting cells in the middle and inner ear2. This disconnection and nerve damage reduces the accuracy of auditory information sent to the brain2. However, only the nerves carrying information of high levels of sound are impacted, which is why problems in hearing for these particular individuals only occurs in places with lots of background noise6. What this means is that if you have HHL you will hear fine in quiet environments but find noisy places impossible.

One large study based in the UK found that “26% of adults reported great difficulty hearing speech in noise, while only 16% had abnormal sensitivity”1. A large proportion of these people have Hidden Hearing Loss. But the true prevalence of HHL is hugely underestimated because sufferers don't get properly diagnosed, don't go for help in the first place, or use one ear to hear. It's thought the number could be double or triple what is currently reported.  HHL isn’t detected by an audiogram because they test someone’s hearing ability in silence not how someone processes and understands speech in noise7

Currently, treatment for HHL is limited to counselling or advice on communication 'tactics' - such as training to lipread8. Until now there has been no other ways of helping with speech in noise.

Why Chatable is the Solution

Chatable is the world’s first Universal Hearing App making hearing conversation in noise effortless. Through a pioneering approach to auditory neuroscience we have created proprietary artificial intelligence VOXimity, which enhances the brain’s ability to hear speech by providing clear and loud voice without background noise.

For someone with Hidden Hearing Loss, Chatable is the perfect management tool. They are given control of their sound environment, with background noise no longer being a blocker to them following the conversation. The clinking of glasses and scraping of dishes, for example, can be removed with the swipe of a finger; and understanding voice becomes easy and effortless, since VOXimity provides a perfect, clean voice recreation, imperceptible from the original. 

Many people with HHL end up lipreading or using residual hearing. But accuracy for lipreading sentences rarely exceeds 10%-30% in comprehension3. Similarly, another study at the University of Manchester researchers found that hard of hearing people who just using their residual hearing understood only 21% of speech4. This is because the brain struggles to stay constantly alert, working to put sentences together, completing words or guessing missed pronunciation. Without clarity of voice, distinct from voice, the brain is under immense strain to understand speech and follow the flow of conversation.

When people use Chatable they’re able to accurately comprehend 100% of the conversation in noise - as shown in this video here. Chatable feeds the brain clear and loud speech without distracting background noise, which means the brain no longer has to try and untangle it from the jumble of noise. This greatly reduces - or completely removes - the need to lipread or use residual hearing, as many with Hidden Hearing Loss end up doing. A recent user expressed that using Chatable to follow a conversation in noise is, “like suddenly putting on a coat in the freezing cold after having just a vest on”. 

The problem of Hidden Hearing loss no longer has to be ‘hidden’. Using Chatable, you can now address  previously untreatable hearing problems and function as you wish in daily life, whether that be going to loud conferences for work or a friend's raucous birthday party. Chatable has made conversation in noisy places accessible, without the exhaustion and confusion that many with unmanaged HHL go through on an almost daily basis in a world dominated by noise.

Not sure if you struggle with speech in noise? Test yourself with ChatableApps’s Speech-In-Noise hearing test.

Click here to download Chatable from the Google Play Store.

1. Plack CJ, Barker D, Prendergast G.  2014 
2. National Research Council (US) Committee on Disability Determination for Individuals with Hearing Impairments; Dobie RA, Van Hemel S, editors.  2004.
3. Ronnberg, 1995; Ronnberg, Samuelsson, & Lyxell, 1998
4. https://hearinglosshelp.com/blog/speechreading-lip-reading/
5. https://www.hear-it.org/hidden-hearing-loss
6. Windle R; Can
Hidden Hearing Loss be Identified in Clinical Conditions? 2017
7. Liberman MC, Epstein MJ, Cleveland SS, Wang H, Maison SF. Toward a Differential Diagnosis of Hidden Hearing Loss in Humans. 2016 
8. Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "Evidence of 'hidden hearing loss' in college-age human subjects." ScienceDaily. 2016.

Filed Under:

Hearing Information