The Facts About High-Frequency Hearing Loss

High-Frequency Hearing Loss

High-frequency hearing loss is a prevalent type affecting a person’s ability to perceive high-pitched sounds. Although individuals of any age may be affected by this type of hearing loss, it is more frequently observed in older adults with age-related hearing loss and individuals exposed to loud noises. High-frequency hearing loss is a significant concern in various settings, including academic and business environments, as it may lead to communication difficulties and reduced productivity. Accordingly, it is critical to comprehend the causes and effects of high-frequency hearing loss to develop effective strategies to mitigate its impact on individuals and organizations.

Understanding High-Frequency Hearing Loss

High-Frequency Hearing Loss Diagnosis

The diagnosis of high-frequency hearing loss is through a hearing test carried out in a sound-treated booth by a hearing instrument specialist or an audiologist. The test plots the results on an audiogram, and if a person finds it challenging to hear frequencies between 2,000 and 8,000 Hz, the audiogram will indicate a slope to the right. A speech-in-noise (SIN) test helps determine the individual’s hearing ability in noisy environments.

What are the Symptoms?

Individuals may encounter difficulty in perceiving certain consonants, such as “f,” “s,” or “h,” pronounced at a higher frequency. Consequently, speech may appear indistinct, mainly when communicating via telephone, watching television, or in noisy surroundings. It is commonly reported by those experiencing this form of hearing impairment that sounds are audible, yet speech comprehension is problematic. Furthermore, it may be more challenging to perceive the vocalizations of women and children and the acoustic signals emitted by birds or electronic devices. This phenomenon is exacerbated in the presence of extraneous environmental noise.

What are the Causes?

High-frequency hearing loss results from damage to the tiny hair-like sensory hearing cells in the inner ear’s cochlea, called stereocilia, which convert the sounds collected by the ear into electrical impulses, which the brain then processes as sound. Hearing loss can affect individuals of all ages, and the underlying causes are diverse and varied.

Noise-induced injury

Auditory damage can ensue from exposure to a loud sound, such as a gunshot or explosion, or from continuous exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels.

Presbycusis (prez-be-cue-sis), aka aging

Hearing loss can happen slowly, and you might only realize it once it’s developed. One of the first signs is problems understanding speech in noisy places.

Family genetics

If your family members have high-frequency hearing loss, you might also have a higher chance of getting it. If you have a family history of high-frequency hearing loss, check your hearing regularly and seek help from a medical professional if you notice any signs of hearing loss.

Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease, affecting people aged 30-50, can cause fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus, vertigo, and low-frequency hearing loss in severe cases. Treatment may include medication, dietary changes, and surgery. Early diagnosis and management are crucial for symptom relief and an improved quality of life.

Ototoxic medications

Certain pharmaceuticals, classified as ototoxic drugs, have the potential to impact hearing health negatively. Awareness of these drugs’ potential ototoxic effects is essential to minimize hearing damage or loss risk.

Treatment Options

High-frequency hearing loss is a common auditory impairment recognized to be irreversible. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss may benefit from using hearing aids designed to amplify only the frequencies that are difficult to hear. The receiver-in-the-ear (RITE) style, which sits in the ear canal, is the best hearing aid for this type of hearing loss. This style allows for an unobstructed passage of low-frequency sounds that can still be heard while selectively amplifying the high-frequency sounds. However, it is essential to note that invisible-in-the-canal or completely-in-the-canal hearing aids may not be effective, as they tend to block low-frequency sounds. It is crucial to remember that adapting to hearing aids may take time, especially for those who have left their hearing loss untreated for an extended period.

Prevention is Key

High-frequency hearing loss is an irreversible condition that can sometimes be prevented. One effective prevention technique is protecting your hearing from noise exposure, especially sounds louder than 85 decibels. Maintaining low volumes of personal electronic devices and employing hearing protection, such as earplugs, is essential when anticipating noisy environments, such as live concerts, sporting events, shooting ranges, or snowmobiling. Inexpensive earplugs are readily available at local drugstores for occasional use. If you regularly engage in loud activities, you should consider specialized hearing protection, such as noise-canceling headphones or custom-made earmolds available through many hearing healthcare professionals.

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