Hearing in Noisy Listening Environments
An article published on September 26 in the Wall Street Journal addressed a challenge many aging Baby Boomers face on a daily basis—difficulty hearing in noisy listening environments, despite the absence of measurable audiometric hearing loss. This condition has been referred to as “hidden hearing loss,” and is thought to reflect cochlear synaptopathy or damage to the synaptic junction between cochlear hair cells and the auditory nerve.
The article cites several research publications that have identified the presence of hidden hearing loss in mice, and even humans, and suggests that it may help explain tinnitus. The article also cites an April publication by researchers from the University of Michigan that suggests that cochlear synapses in mice were regenerated after noise exposure when they were injected with neuotrophin-3.
The article goes on to indicate that many audiologists are using speech-in-noise tests to evaluate hearing loss “beyond the audiogram,” and to assist with diagnosing auditory processing disorders, among other conditions. Also, it states that modern hearing aids that include noise management and directional microphone technology may help with treatment. It does caution that hearing aids cannot return hearing to normal, however, and stresses that much of the work on hearing restoration is still preliminary. Numerous audiologists, hearing scientists and Academy members are quoted.
Beck M. (2016) Can’t Hear in Noisy Places? It’s a real Medical Condition. Wall Street Journal, September 26.