Hidden Hearing Loss: A Disorder with Multiple Etiologies and Mechanisms

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2020 Jan 2;10(1):a035493. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a035493.


Hidden hearing loss (HHL), a recently described auditory disorder, has been proposed to affect auditory neural processing and hearing acuity in subjects with normal audiometric thresholds, particularly in noisy environments. In contrast to central auditory processing disorders, HHL is caused by defects in the cochlea, the peripheral auditory organ. Noise exposure, aging, ototoxic drugs, and peripheral neuropathies are some of the known risk factors for HHL. Our knowledge of the causes and mechanisms of HHL are based primarily on animal models. However, recent clinical studies have also shed light on the etiology and prevalence of this cochlear disorder and how it may affect auditory perception in humans. Here, we review the current knowledge regarding the causes and cellular mechanisms of HHL, summarize information on available noninvasive tests for differential diagnosis, and discuss potential therapeutic approaches for treatment of HHL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cochlea / physiopathology
  • Cochlear Nerve / physiopathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / pathology
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Inner / physiology
  • Hearing Loss / etiology*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology*
  • Hearing Loss / therapy*
  • Humans