Hidden hearing loss linked to tinnitus

Photo credit: Annushka Ahuja

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

A report from MSN discusses recent research from Harvard University and the affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary that links hidden hearing loss to tinnitus. Here is the actual scientific report. Hidden hearing loss manifests as difficulty understanding speech in a noisy situation and is believed to be caused by cochlear synaptopathy, or damage to the connection between cochlear hair cells and  auditory nerve fibers. The report holds out hope that cochlear synapses can regenerate.

Tinnitus is estimated to affect about 15% of Americans, or 50-55 million people. There are many causes of tinnitus, including head trauma, viral infections and medications but the most common cause is noise exposure. Ninety percent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss.

I have tinnitus. Fortunately, my symptoms are minor and not life-limiting. My interest is in prevention of tinnitus, not treatment. Prevention is cheap and easy. Avoid loud noise exposure, turn down the volume, or insert ear plugs and you can avoid having a constant ringing in your ears.

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