This image by NIH Image Gallery is in the public domain

by Jan L. Mayes, MSc, Audiologist, Member, The Quiet Coalition

A Short Wave podcast at NPR highlights how even mild concussions or brain injuries can change how a person processes sound. These auditory problems can happen in addition to common symptoms like headaches, confusion, dizziness, or memory problems.

Sound processing problems affect about 15 to 20% of patients with mild head injuries. People can “pass” a standard hearing test, but fail at understanding speech in noisy environments. Most recover over time, but not all.

The podcast mentions that this is a new idea for scientists and doctors. But it is not a new idea for audiologists, who can test for problems and offer guidance on coping strategies or treatment options.

Years ago, I did audiology assessments as part of a brain injury team. The more severe the brain injury, the more likely the person could hear but have difficulty separating what was said from any background sounds or noise. In addition to background voices, sometimes even low level sound from lighting or heating-cooling systems was enough to interfere.

It’s great to see this problem getting more attention. It would be nice to see hearing healthcare professionals included in the conversation.