Hidden hearing loss is hitting people of all ages. Neuroscientists are still debating why.
Samantha Basset, a resident in Portland, Maine, had an auditory accident at her air tower control job in 2014, when a very loud sound was emitted into her ear due to interference on her headset. On her first inspection by a doctor, the damage seemed minimal – but she soon found her hearing had changed drastically. Samantha would become nauseous for seemingly no reason, and when in loud places, she couldn’t make out words other people were saying. Before the incident, she could follow three or four conversations at once – now, she could barely handle one. Basset continued to see audiologists and specialists, hoping to find out more about her condition, before finally getting her answer – hidden hearing loss, a phenomenon which occurs when the receptors in the ear that detect sound are damaged and can’t pass signals on to the brain.
Samantha is just one of many people who have hidden hearing loss. Those with this phenomenon can be of virtually any age when they first become affected – anywhere from their early 20s to their late 80s. It may be difficult to discern, as hidden hearing loss often only becomes apparent in loud areas, and it can be very difficult for doctors to say for sure exactly what initially causes the condition – anything from a loud burst like that which Samantha encountered, to constant sounds over a long period of time. It typically results in components of the inner ear being damaged, and those affected by it to lose their hearing in certain situations or amounts.
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