Hearing care professionals are finding that many of their patients report hearing difficulty, but when tested, have no measurable hearing loss on a standard audiogram (graph showing how well an individual can hear various pitches or frequencies), resulting in a “normal” audiogram. In some large clinics, over one in five people that come in for a hearing test have normal audiograms. Under the current standard of care, it is assumed that these individuals have normal hearing and are not in need of treatment, either from hearing aids or other technologies. However, that may not be the case.
One study at the National Acoustics Laboratory (NAL) in Australia examined over 10,000 patients with normal hearing audiograms but had contacted a clinic for help. Almost 70% of these patients were under 65 years of age. Their primary reason for scheduling the appointment was perceived hearing difficulties and limitations in their daily activities. Almost half of them indicated that family and friends had encouraged them to seek help. When the patient was asked to rate their perceived level of hearing loss, the majority indicated that thought they had a moderate hearing loss. The hearing loss concerns of patients with normal audiograms are very similar to those individuals whose audiograms do show hearing loss, yet they are being told they do not need amplification.
However, recent research shows that many of these people may actually benefit from low-gain hearing aids with directional microphones, recently introduced over-the-counter hearing aids, or consumer devices such are Airpods with hearing accessibility features engaged.
As technology continues to expand in the hearing healthcare space, we expect that new products and tools will evolve for hearing care professionals to assist this unique population.
If you are experiencing hearing difficulty and are unsure of the degree of your loss, we have provided a simple screening tool to give you a hearing health score. If your results indicate you are having hearing difficult, we encourage you have your hearing tested by a hearing professionals. And if you receive a “normal” audiogram but are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss that affect your daily life, be sure to share those concerns with your hearing care professional. They can help you find a solution to meet your unique hearing loss needs.