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.
Common symptoms associated with high-frequency hearing loss are:
These factors can cause high-frequency hearing loss:
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.
Certain drugs are considered ototoxic and can cause high-frequency hearing loss.
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.
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.
You may have an increased risk if you have a family history of high-frequency hearing loss.
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.
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.
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.
High-frequency hearing loss is generally irreversible. However, it can be prevented with the following tips:
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.