July 25, 2022

What Did You Say? Hearing Loss & Difficulties With Communication

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What Did You Say? Hearing Loss & Difficulties With Communication

Have you ever been out with friends and had difficulty following the conversation? Do you frequently have to ask your family to repeat things you didn’t catch? Even if you don’t have other signs of hearing loss, having trouble comprehending speech is an indicator of problems with your hearing and it can have serious repercussions for your health and quality of life. Problems with speech comprehension can even point to issues like hidden hearing loss, which can escape detection.

Communication And Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can happen gradually, making it hard to recognize how much difficulty it creates. Loud noises, for instance can cause permanent hearing damage and exposure to loud sounds throughout our lifespan can add up to a significant loss of hearing. Understanding the symptoms of hearing loss is the first step towards recognizing if you may be experiencing hearing loss.

People with hearing loss can often hear sounds, but may have trouble interpreting them. Often, they have to ask for speech to be repeated. Also, hearing becomes challenging in noisy environments. Hearing loss limits a person’s ability to accurately assess the source of directional sound, so it is harder to parse relevant words and conversation from the overall noise of an environment. This can manifest as difficulty following noisy situations like a dinner party conversation, a sporting event or even a church service.

Hidden Hearing Loss

More and more, research into hearing is uncovering information about hidden hearing loss. Hidden hearing loss is hearing impairment that can escape some standardized testing. Research has recently identified two types of hidden hearing loss that can exist together or independently of each other.  

One key trait of hidden hearing loss is that it does not affect hearing in simplified, quiet conditions. Detecting a tone in quiet room during a standard hearing test presents no problems. However, hidden hearing loss becomes evident in complicated sound environments, like following a conversation at a party or hearing announcements at an airport, where hearing comprehension falls away quickly.

Synapse Loss

One sort of hidden hearing loss is linked to the destruction of auditory synapses that can occur when sound damages our inner ear. Loud noises disrupt the fragile mechanisms in the inner ear and specifically can break the synapses that connect hair cells to the neural pathways of the auditory nerve.

These synapses are a major part of how we discriminate between sounds and interpret speech. In a quiet environment, the auditory nerve requires relatively few synapses to understand the auditory landscape. As a soundscape becomes more complicated however, more synapses are required to process auditory information. When there is a shortage of available synapses, sound becomes confusing and it is harder to separate relevant sounds from background noise.

Recent scientific research has made some relevant discoveries in relation to synapse damage. In a laboratory, researchers have been able to regenerate the synapses of mice with hearing loss. Although it is still far from a treatment available for human hearing, it does hold potential for the future of treatment for hidden hearing loss.

Myelin Deterioration

The second type of hidden hearing loss is rooted in the degradation of the protective myelin sheathes that surround the neural axons of the auditory system. One prime contributor to myelin weakening is found in the Schwann cells which are responsible for generating myelin. A deficiency of Schwann cells can do serious damage to the body. Acute demyelination is found in conditions like Guillian-Barr syndrome (which can be encouraged by the Zika virus).

With myelin deterioration, damage occurs to neural axons that are left insufficiently protected. Even when healthy myelin levels are restored, damage to the cells beneath remains permanent. This was discovered in recent experiments on mice where induced myelin shortages caused permanent hearing loss, regardless of whether or not myelin was restored. Myelin deficiency demonstrates how important the auditory nerve cells are to the ultimate translation of sound into meaning. Without healthy auditory nerve functioning, signs of hearing loss become evident, although they may not be evident in standard tests.

The Hearing Spa Of Florida

Have you been struggling with your hearing? Does it sound like you may be experiencing some of the symptoms of hidden hearing loss? If so, Hearing Spa can help. We pride ourselves on expert hearing care and a full selection of the best treatment options available. When you experience hearing difficulties, it’s time to set up an appointment with Hearing Spa.


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