You might not know about it, but hidden hearing loss is a crucial – and relatively recent – subject of study in audiology and healthcare circles.

“The more technical term for the condition is cochlear synaptopathy, and it is associated with difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments,” a recent ASHA article says. It’s termed “hidden” because standard tone audiometry doesn’t pick up its presence.

According to hear-it.org: “A hidden hearing loss doesn’t normally affect a person’s ability to hear quiet sounds, but it makes it harder to hear sounds when there is competing background noise.” A major cause of concern is that this type of hearing loss is possibly widely under-diagnosed, and without treatment or further preventative measures, one could see their hearing easily get worse over time.

The definitive cause is unknown, but evidence may point to loud noise (concerts, power tools, everyday above average sound levels) as the main culprit. Some scientists believe causes may also be due to genetics.

Hidden hearing loss may appear daunting, but there are steps to combat it, and we’re learning more about its characteristics every day.

REM can determine the presence of a “hidden hearing loss” during a diagnostic audiometric assessment. A speech in noise hearing test will determine a potential signal to noise hearing loss. People who have this loss are prime candidates for assistive listening devices that will help with enhanced comprehension.