New York : Researchers have developed a new test that can identify hearing loss or deficits in some individuals considered to have normal or near-normal hearing in traditional tests.
Many adults report difficulties hearing in everyday situations, despite having their physicians or audiologists tell them that the results of their hearing tests are normal or near-normal.
"We now have a validated technique to identify 'hidden' hearing deficits that would likely go undetected with traditional audiograms," said Leslie Bernstein, Professor at University of Connecticut School of Medicine in the US.
Their newly developed hearing test measures a person's ability to detect across-ears (binaural) changes in sounds presented at levels of loudness that are close to those experienced in normal conversations.
The binaural system plays a fundamental and predominant role in the ability to localise sounds, to understand conversation in places such as busy restaurants, and to attend to one of multiple, simultaneous sounds.
The researchers studied 31 adults between ages 30 to 67 with normal or near-normal audiograms.
The results of the study published in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America showed that listeners who have essentially normal clinical hearing test results may exhibit substantial deficits in binaural processing.
"Our study shows that our novel binaural hearing test can help early identify vulnerable populations of listeners, and perhaps help determine when critical interventions are warranted," Constantine Trahiotis, Emeritus Professor at University of Connecticut School of Medicine, noted.
Acquired hearing loss from excessive noise exposure has long been known to produce significant, and sometimes debilitating, hearing deficits, Bernstein pointed out.
The new research suggests that hearing loss may be even more widespread than was once thought.