Difficulty hearing in background noise can be frustrating. New research into the issue is revealing the secrets
Is this the real reason you can’t hear conversation round the dinner table? …even though the standard test says nothing is wrong with your ears
- Pure tone audiometry test suggested Diana’s hearing was normal
- Then she heard about emerging phenomenon ‘hidden hearing loss’
- Decided to try very different type of hearing test using series of electrodes
Do you struggle to understand the person next to you above the background chatter at dinner parties? Or fret at the prospect of an evening in a pub that insists on blaring out loud music?
You’re not alone – surveys suggest that more than a quarter of us have great difficulty deciphering speech in a noisy environment.
In my 20s, going to bars or restaurants with background music meant a stressful night of straining to work out what anyone said over the din. But when my GP referred me for a hearing test around five years ago, aged 29, I was surprised to receive a clean bill of health.
The standard hearing assessment, known as the pure tone audiometry test – where tones of varying volumes and pitches were played to me through headphones while I pressed a button to indicate I had heard them – suggested my hearing was normal.
Then I heard about an emerging phenomenon known as ‘hidden hearing loss’, and wondered if this could apply to me.
Coined in 2011 by researchers at University College London, hidden hearing loss refers to the kind of difficulties not detectable via standard hearing tests, says David McAlpine, a professor of auditory neuroscience at the UCL Ear Institute in London.