December 19, 2021

Suspect You Have Hearing Loss... But Hearing Tests Come Back Normal?


Hidden hearing loss or acquired central auditory processing disorder or CAPD is characterized by greater than normal difficulty understanding speech in a noisy environment, for example a loud restaurant… but all hearing tests come back normal. This condition is due to the brain having difficulty separating out relevant speech from other competing sounds whether random noise versus multiple speakers. There is nothing wrong with ear itself and its ability to hear the sounds. The problem is the brain. The analogous engineering concept is that the brain’s signal to noise processor is not working very well.


There is a way to check for hidden hearing loss at home using online hearing tests. Click here for the steps to accomplish this.


One way to improve if not resolve this hearing difficulty is through musical ear training. The best music to utilize for such CAPD ear training are songs that vary in pitch and melody. When listening to such songs, it is very important to really focus and work on isolating a single voice or melody while ignoring the other parts. Ideally, sing or hum each individual part to reinforce the sound isolation and improve the ease in its perception.


At first, you may have to really work and concentrate to focus on doing these exercises successfully. The more you work and practice these exercises on a daily basis, the faster the improvement and the easier it becomes requiring less concentration, though it may take months.


Another strategy is to listen to an audiobook at normal loudness levels while playing music in the background. Turn the music volume up just loud enough that it is a struggle to understand the audiobook. Over time, as it becomes easier to understand the audiobook, keep increasing the volume of the background music. Eventually, hidden hearing loss should slowly resolve.


There was a nice article published on hidden hearing loss in the New York Times on 12/15/21.


Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.


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