High Frequency Hearing Loss: Know the Symptoms and Treatment



High-frequency hearing loss is one of the common types of hearing loss. Hearing high-pitched sounds can be difficult with this condition. Anyone, regardless of age, can experience high-frequency hearing loss, but it is common in elders who have age-related hearing loss and people who have high exposure to loud noises.

High-frequency hearing loss occurs when the small sensory hearing cells in your inner ear, known as hair cells are damaged. These cells get their name from hair-like structures called stereocilia that bend in response to in-coming sound. Inner ear hair cells are responsible for converting the sounds waves into electrical impulses, which your brain interprets as sound.

Symptoms of High-Frequency Hearing Loss

Common symptoms associated with high-frequency hearing loss are:

  • Difficulty understanding words that start or end with certain consonants (s, f, th, or t) that are soft and higher in pitch. Speech may sound muffled especially when you are in noisy environments, watching TV, or when the speaker is facing away from you.
  • When people talk, you may feel like you can hear but cannot understand the words.
  • Difficulty hearing women’s and children’s voices, devices beeping, and the sounds of birds singing.
  • Persistent tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.
  • Loud high-pitched noises become more irritating or intolerable – a condition called hyperacusis.

Causes of High-Frequency Hearing Loss

These factors can cause high-frequency hearing loss:

  • Excessive Sound Exposure
  • A one-time exposure to loud noise, such as a gunshot or explosion, or prolonged exposure to noises louder than 85 decibels can cause high-frequency hearing loss.

  • Medications
  • Certain drugs are considered ototoxic and can cause high-frequency hearing loss.

  • Age
  • Presbycusis, or the age-related hearing loss, develops gradually over time. It usually affects both ears and is difficult to notice for the individual. Family members often notice the hearing problem before the individual does. Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments is one of the first signs of age-related hearing loss.

  • Diseases
  • Meniere’s disease, which usually occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, affects the inner ear and may result in tinnitus, fluctuating hearing loss, and vertigo or intense dizziness. In severe cases, the condition can lead to low-frequency hearing loss. In children, chronic otitis media, or middle ear infection, can lead to permanent hearing loss if left untreated.

  • Genetics
  • You may have an increased risk if you have a family history of high-frequency hearing loss.

    How Is High-Frequency Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

    Your audiologist will conduct a hearing test in a sound-treated booth, and your results will be plotted on an audiogram. A person with high-frequency hearing loss would have diminished hearing at frequencies between 2,000 and 8,000 Hz. A person may have mild, moderate, severe, or profound high-frequency hearing loss depending on their condition’s severity.

    Treatment Options for High-Frequency Hearing Loss

    Hearing aids are the best treatment for high-frequency hearing loss. One of the hearing aid types that is often recommended for this hearing loss is the receiver in the canal (RIC). This hearing aid has a more open canal fitting, so it won’t muffle low-frequency sounds that you can naturally hear and is programmed to amplify only the high-frequency sounds that are difficult to hear. Visit your audiologist to discuss if any other hearing aid types can work well for your condition.

    Hearing protection as part of a hearing conservation plan may also be recommended if your audiologist suspects that your hearing loss may be due to excessive exposure to sound.

    Health Risks of High-Frequency Hearing Loss

    High-frequency hearing loss often worsens over time. The condition becomes more difficult to manage when it has progressed to a severe degree and has been left untreated. The consequences of hearing loss may extend beyond just having difficulties in hearing. High-frequency hearing loss can delay speech and language development in children, affecting their ability to excel academically, socially, and emotionally. In older adults, untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation and depression and has been linked to memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia.

    How to Prevent High-Frequency Hearing Loss

    High-frequency hearing loss is generally irreversible. However, it can be prevented with the following tips:

    • Protect your hearing against noises louder than 85 decibels
    • Turn down the volume of music systems, electronic devices, and televisions.
    • Wear hearing protection devices, such as custom earmolds or noise-canceling headphones, if you are regularly exposed to loud noises or when you visit noisy environments such as sporting events or live concerts.

    Regular hearing evaluations will help to diagnose problems before they impact your hearing ability. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Hoffmann to get your hearing checked.


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Chris Lin Hoffmann

Dr. Chris Hoffmann is an audiologist who has been involved in hearing sciences for over 20 years. Her passion for helping people with their hearing led her to establish Hoffmann Audiology hearing clinic. Dr. Hoffmann has more than 14 years of clinical knowledge in hearing testing, hearing aid fittings, and aural rehabilitation.