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Could You Have High Frequency Hearing Loss? Know The Signs

By Amanda Vining
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on January 13, 2021
Struggling to hear another person during a conversation is a sign of high frequency hearing loss. Luckily, there are treatment options and solutions that work.

If you struggle to hear what other people say or feel confused during conversations, you might have high frequency hearing loss. 

High frequency hearing loss is a condition that occurs when the ear becomes unable to hear high-pitched sounds. According to the Hearing Rehab Center, “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.”

As many as 14% of people under the age of 65 and 30% of people age 65 or older experience hearing loss. If you are one of these people, here is what you should know about high frequency hearing loss:

Signs and Symptoms of High Frequency Hearing Loss

According to Hearing Rehab Center, you may first notice high frequency hearing loss when you realize that you cannot keep up in conversations, or when someone else comments on your hearing. When you develop high frequency hearing loss, one of the first symptoms is the loss of ability to hear high pitched sounds, which means that you may be able to hear some words other people say but can’t hear all of the words in a sentence, or even all of the sounds in a word. 

“With high frequency hearing loss, patients often report they can hear most

speech, they just often misunderstand what’s being said,” Shannon Basham, AuD, Senior Director of Audiology & Education at Phonak USA tells WebMD Connect to Care.

According to Basham, common symptoms of high frequency hearing loss include:

  • Trouble hearing consonants.
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly or clearly. 
  • Difficulty understanding words especially in crowds or noisy
  • environments.
  • Developmental and learning delays (especially in children).
  • Insecurity and self-esteem issues.
  • Tinnitus (a sensation of hearing sounds like buzzing, roaring or ringing in your ears without a sound being present in the environment)

“High frequency hearing loss can cause people to withdraw from conversations and social situations,” Basham says.  

How is High Frequency Hearing Loss Tested and Diagnosed?

If you are experiencing issues with your hearing, the first step is to see an audiologist who can diagnose the type of hearing loss. Then, a hearing test will be performed. The types of hearing tests that are used to diagnose high frequency hearing loss include:

  • Physical exams and screening tests
  • Tuning fork tests
  • Audiometer tests (commonly known as an audiogram)

“Apart from the physical exam to ensure there is nothing obstructing your outer and middle ear, most hearing tests are performed in a quiet, sound-treated room,” Basham says.

According to Basham, you can expect the following during a typical hearing test:

  • You may hear a series of tones that will get softer and softer until they become inaudible.
  • You may be asked to identify the softest tone you can hear.
  • You may be asked to repeat a list of words at different sound levels.
  • You may be asked to repeat sentences against competing noise. 

Treatments and Solutions That Work

Hearing aids are the most common and usually the best course of treatment for high frequency hearing loss. In recent years, there has been a lot of technological improvement in hearing aids. According to Mayo Clinic, 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. 

High frequency hearing loss can often be prevented, but sometimes it might be inevitable. “Hearing loss isn’t always preventable as there can be a genetic and aging component. However, noise exposure can certainly cause high frequency hearing loss. It is very important that you protect your hearing if you are in noisy environments,” Basham says. 

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.