It is estimated that around 48 million Americans experience hearing loss. One of the most common types of hearing loss is high-frequency hearing loss – a condition that describes difficulty hearing and understanding higher-pitch sounds. High-frequency hearing loss can affect anybody, but those most susceptible are older adults and those exposed to excessive loud noises.
What Are the Symptoms of High-Frequency Hearing Loss?
People with high-frequency hearing loss tend to have difficulty hearing certain consonants, like s, h and f. This is because consonants are uttered at a higher frequency than vowels sounds. This can result in speech sounding muffled, especially when talking on the phone, watching TV or trying to have a conversation in background noise.
High-frequency hearing loss also causes difficulty hearing certain people’s voices, especially women’s and children’s. Many people with high-frequency hearing loss describe being able to hear, but not understand.
Other signs of high-frequency hearing loss include difficulty hearing sounds like birds singing or electronic devices beeping.
What Causes High-Frequency Hearing Loss?
Within the inner ears are tiny hair cells called stereocilia. These hair cells are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy, which travels via the auditory nerve to the brain to be interpreted as recognizable sound. High-frequency hearing loss is the result of damage to these hair cells.
Common causes of high-frequency hearing loss include:
- Noise exposure
- Medications (aspirin in large quantities, chemotherapy drugs, aminoglycoside antibiotics)
- Diseases (Meniere’s disease, ear infections)
How Is High-Frequency Hearing Loss Treated?
Unfortunately, high-frequency hearing loss is a permanent, irreversible condition in most cases. However, there are treatment options available; hearing aids are the gold standard treatment for high-frequency hearing loss.
The best type of hearing aid for treating high-frequency hearing loss is a receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) hearing aid. This style has a dome that sits in the ear canal, but has an open fit so that low-frequency sounds can still pass through the ear and be heard naturally. The hearing aid can be programmed to amplify only the higher frequencies you struggle to hear.
How Can I Prevent High-Frequency Hearing Loss?
The best thing you can do to prevent high-frequency hearing loss is wear hearing protection when you are exposed to loud noise. Any sound over 85 dB – about the volume of highway traffic – can cause permanent damage. When you attend a concert, shoot a firearm or operate a power tool, be sure to wear protection.
You can purchase inexpensive foam earplugs from the drugstore or order custom-molded high-fidelity plugs from an audiologist’s office.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call San Francisco Audiology today.