High Frequency Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is extremely common in the United States. Roughly 22 million people are exposed to dangerous levels of noise at work. Once the structures in your inner ear are damaged, it often is not possible to reverse hearing loss.
Hearing damage can either be classified as sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, or a combination of the two.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the more common type. It occurs when your auditory nerve or the hair cells inside your inner ear’s cochlea become damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent but may be improved with hearing aids or cochlear implants.
High-frequency hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss where you are unable to hear sounds that occur in the higher end of frequencies, which are frequencies of 2,000 Hz or higher. These sounds are also called the higher sounds or high-pitched sounds and are measured on an audiogram. For example, deep voices and booming audio are heard at low frequencies, while birds tweeting and female voices are heard at high frequencies.
Hearing ranges for normal humans
The human hearing range is a description of the pitches and loudness levels a person can hear before feeling discomfort and is referred to as the audible range
The ‘normal’ hearing frequency range of a healthy young person is about 20 to 20,000Hz. Though a ‘normal’ audible range for loudness is from 0 to 180dB, anything over 85dB is considered damaging, so we should try not to go there.
Although humans can hear a large range of frequencies, people hear sounds best from 1,000 Hz to 5,000 Hz where human speech is centered.
Hearing ranges for people with hearing loss
If hearing loss is suspected, a hearing professional will perform a hearing test and plot your results on an audiogram to determine your specific hearing range. Your hearing test results are plotted on a graph and then compared with that of a person with normal levels of hearing.
This test shows your hearing “threshold” or the point where you can’t hear any more. Your audiogram can tell you a lot about your hearing, including the frequencies you can hear and the volume you can hear them at. Professionals use these tests to fit a person with hearing aids.
Common symptoms of high-frequency hearing loss
A high frequency hearing loss also makes it difficult to hear conversations in larger groups, in noisy places, or in places with background noise. As there are a wide range of speech sounds that occupy high frequencies, people who suffer from this type of hearing loss often struggle to understand or keep up with daily conversations. They may miss consonants in higher registers, such as the letters F, H, and S. People with a high-frequency hearing loss may have trouble understanding female and children’s voices and experience difficulties hearing birds singing or other high-pitched sounds, e.g. treble sounds when listening to music. Speech often sounds slurred or muffled, especially when talking on the telephone.
High frequency hearing loss at young ages can significantly impact a child’s ability to learn and communicate, leading to developmental delays. For this reason, it is vital that children have their hearing tested regularly to ensure that their speech and language skills are not impaired.
In older adults, untreated hearing loss is associated with a higher risk of cognitive decline, social isolation, depression and injury-causing falls.
General causes of high-frequency hearing loss
A high-frequency hearing loss is typically a sensorineural hearing loss, which is a hearing loss normally caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. Aging, noise exposure, and medical conditions are the three biggest causes of high frequency hearing loss, all of which damage the sensory cells in the inner ear. The ear is able to process high-frequency sounds through tiny hair cells in the lower part of the cochlea. These hairs absorb and translate noises into electrical impulses which are sent to your brain, which then interprets the impulses as sound. If the sensory cells in your cochlea are damaged, you lose the ability to hear and ultimately process these sounds. As the hair cells that perceive low-frequency sounds are located near the top of the cochlea, hearing loss typically occurs at higher frequencies first.
Most common causes of hearing loss:
- Noise Damage
- Middle ear infection
- Meniere’s Disease
Diagnosing high-frequency hearing loss
Diagnosis of high-frequency hearing loss is made after a hearing test in a sound-treated booth at a hearing clinic. A hearing instrument specialist or audiologist usually will conduct the test. The results are plotted on an audiogram. If a person has high-frequency hearing loss, the audiogram will show a slope to the right, indicating a person has trouble hearing frequencies between 2,000 and 8,000 Hz.
Types of high-frequency hearing loss
When a person has problems hearing high frequency sounds the hearing curve looks like a ski slope in an audiogram and is a special kind of sensorineural hearing loss. It can be difficult to hear children's voices or high pitched female voices.
- Symptoms- The hearing-impaired person can often hear without difficulty in a quiet room. But it is very difficult to hear in a noisy place - especially when there are a lot of people talking.
- Causes- There can be many reasons this type of hearing loss occurs including excessive noise at the workplace or during leisure time, side effects of drugs, birth complications - lack of oxygen during birth.This type of hearing loss can be hereditary and it can develop over a number of years.
Cookie-bite hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss—that means it is due to an impairment in the cochlea or auditory nerve, and not a conductive problem (such as fluid in the middle ear or earwax build-up).
- Symptoms- When a person suffers from this type of hearing loss the person has problems hearing mid frequency sounds which can gradually progress into problems hearing high frequency sounds.
- Causes- This type of hearing loss is very often hereditary and is often first discovered when a child has a hearing test. After a child is diagnosed, parents are tested, which explains why this kind of hearing loss is most often discovered when people are between the age of thirty and forty.
Treatment of high-frequency hearing loss
The most effective treatment for high frequency hearing loss is hearing aid therapy. A hearing aid has the ability to amplify the high-pitched sounds that the wearer has difficulty perceiving, allowing him or her to understand speech noises more effectively. Some hearing aids even offer different settings for conversations and directional microphones, allowing the wearer to move effortlessly between talking in groups, on the phone, or one-on-one.
Hearing aid manufacturers continue to make improvements by developing hearing aids that are more effective for all types of hearing loss, including high-frequency hearing loss.
The advent of digital technology in the mid-1990s resulted in significant hearing aid improvements. Digital hearing aids can be adjusted to match an individual's unique hearing loss.
With digital hearing aids, a computer chip converts incoming sounds into digital code and then analyzes and adjusts the signal based on your specific needs as revealed by your hearing test. The signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears. The result is sound that is more finely tuned to your hearing loss.
Some additional improvements in digital hearing aids include:
- Better feedback (whistling) management
- Better noise reduction
- Better automatic volume adjustments
- Connectivity to devices that have wireless Bluetooth technology, such as cellphones and tablets
If hearing aids become less effective in treating the hearing loss the next option a patient can pursue is a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. This option is typically less common for a person experiencing high frequency hearing loss.
Preventing high-frequency hearing loss
There are many easy and inexpensive things people can do to reduce the likelihood of hearing loss at any age. One of the best ways to prevent hearing damage is to use hearing protection (such as ear plugs or approved over-the-ear protection) whenever they are exposed to noises over 85 decibels (dB). Any excessively noisy activities have the ability to damage hearing, including the use of power tools, riding a motorcycle, shooting firearms, or attending concerts and sporting events. In addition, you can protect your hearing by keeping the volume turned down on televisions, stereos, and personal electronic devices. Your range of hearing shrinks as you age. Children can often hear sounds that the average adult is oblivious to. However, if you notice a sudden loss or change in your hearing, it’s a good idea to get your hearing tested right away.
As more and more young people are suffering from early-onset hearing loss, it is more important than ever to have regular hearing screening tests and continue to take preventative measures to avoid early onset hearing loss. High frequency sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by many factors and mostly due to damage in a person’s inner ear.
In most cases, high frequency hearing loss is irreversible. It is most commonly caused by the natural aging process or from exposure to loud sounds. You can reduce your chances of developing high frequency hearing loss by dialing down the volume when using headphones, using earplugs when exposed to loud noises, and living an overall healthy lifestyle.
It is important to pay special attention to your hearing if you have been in a situation where you experienced louder noises than usual in order to ensure you can get your hearing checked before progressive damage is caused.
Thank you for reading this article,
Senior Editor, Audien Hearing