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New test can detect hidden hearing loss

Researchers develop new hearing test to identify hearing loss missed on traditional tests.

By
Amy Wallace
Neuroscience researchers Constantine Trahiotis, left, and Leslie R. Bernstein are in the Psychoacoustics Laboratory at UConn Health, have developed a hearing test that detects hearing loss or deficits normally not picked up by traditional hearing tests. Janine Gelineau/UConn Health
Neuroscience researchers Constantine Trahiotis, left, and Leslie R. Bernstein are in the Psychoacoustics Laboratory at UConn Health, have developed a hearing test that detects hearing loss or deficits normally not picked up by traditional hearing tests. Janine Gelineau/UConn Health

STORRS, Conn., Dec. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine have developed a new hearing test that can identify hearing loss more accurately than traditional hearing tests.

Hearing difficulties are a common complaint among adults who go to the doctor to have their hearing tested only to be told that their hearing test results are normal.

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Leslie R. Bernstein, professor of neuroscience and surgery, and Constantine Trahiotis, emeritus professor of neuroscience and surgery, developed a hearing test that 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.

"We now have a validated technique to identify 'hidden' hearing deficits that would likely go undetected with traditional audiograms," Bernstein said in a press release.

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The researchers studied 31 adults between the ages of 30 to 67 with normal or near-normal audiograms. The results showed that the individuals who had essentially normal clinical hearing test results exhibited 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," Trahiotis said in a press release.

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The research suggests that hearing loss may be more widespread than previously thought and that post-concert hearing loss or ringing in the ears may not be a temporary injury.

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"Our research team has been working hard to define what normal hearing really is," Trahiotis said. "Greater understanding of normal hearing and the early detection of any underlying slight hearing deficits in supposed 'normal' listeners could help practitioners have a better chance of identifying ways to slow the progression of debilitating hearing loss in one's lifetime, and even possibly finding future ways to restore it."

The study was published in the Journal of the Acoustic Society of America.

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