Approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound. High-frequency hearing loss is one of the most common types. This condition makes it difficult for people to hear and understand speech and sound at higher pitches.
Although people of any age can acquire high-frequency hearing loss, it is most common in older adults. Teenagers and adults frequently exposed to loud noises also have a higher risk of developing this common audiological condition.
How High-Frequency Hearing Loss Develops
People with high-frequency hearing loss struggle to hear sounds in the 2,000 to 8,000 Hertz range. Damage to hair cells within the cochlea of the ear cause the decrease in hearing ability. Normally, the hair cells are responsible for creating electrical impulses from sounds that travel through the ears.
The brain then takes over to transmit the electrical impulses into sounds that people recognize and can interpret.
The lower portion of the ear’s cochlea is the region responsible for processing high-frequency sounds. That means damage to the cochlea impacts the accuracy of interpretation of high-frequency sounds first.
People with this type of hearing loss often report difficulty hearing women’s and children’s voices compared to men’s voices. The consonants s, f, and th are the most difficult to hear, which presents learning difficulties for children with the condition.
Recognizing Common Symptoms of High-Frequency Hearing Loss
The main difference between high-frequency hearing loss and other types is that people can hear hear most speech sounds. They just have trouble interpreting the sounds correctly most of the time. Older people may write off their struggle to hear words right as an accepted part of aging, but that does not need to be the case.
Recognizing a high-frequency hearing loss is the first step in receiving the proper treatment for it. Typical symptoms include:
- Asking others to repeat themselves often or speak more slowly
- Trouble hearing words, which is especially common in noisy environments such as a restaurant
- Learning and developmental delays in children
- Low self-esteem
- Struggling to hear consonant sounds correctly
- Tinnitus, which describes hearing sounds such as buzzing, clicking, ringing, or roaring that other people do not hear
Anyone who recognizes at least a few of these symptoms in themselves or their child should visit an audiologist for a hearing evaluation.
Noise Exposure and Other Primary Causes
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, nearly 10 million of the 46 million Americans with some type of hearing loss acquired it due to loud noise exposure. High-frequency hearing loss can develop after one-time exposure to an extremely loud noise such as a gunshot or explosion.
However, it occurs more often due to ongoing exposure to noise louder than 85 decibels.
Genetics and aging are also factors for high-frequency hearing loss, neither of which people can control. People who know they have these risk factors should take extra precautions to guard against noise-induced hearing loss. Additional causes include chronic ear infections, Meniere’s disease, and certain medications.
Regardless of the cause of any hearing loss, visiting an audiologist to determine if hearing aids could help should be the first step. Those who cannot receive help from hearing aids or prefer not to wear them can consider alternative such as customizable earbuds.