Although hearing loss varies by degree and type, high-frequency (or high-pitch) hearing loss is one of the most common configurations of hearing loss. Hearing professionals define high-frequency hearing loss as hearing loss that occurs between 2000 Hertz (Hz) – 8000 Hertz. Decreased hearing acuity in the high-frequency range is often the first sign of hearing loss.
Following your hearing test, your hearing professional will explain your test results using an audiogram. An audiogram is a graph that displays how well you hear at each frequency, or pitch, which is important for speech understanding.
Hearing professionals test hearing between 250 Hz – 8000 Hz. Frequency is charted on an audiogram from left to right, starting with low frequencies to the left, and increasing in pitch as you move to the right, similar to a piano keyboard. An audiogram for high-frequency hearing loss shows hearing within the range of normal from 50 Hz – 1500 Hz, with results falling outside the range for normal hearing around 2000 Hz.
High-frequency hearing loss makes it challenging to understand speech
Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss have difficulty understanding speech in noise, and the voices of women and children, which are higher in pitch. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss may also have difficulty hearing birds or the doorbell. Talking to family and friends over the telephone is also more challenging with high-frequency hearing loss.
High frequencies help with speech understanding, because fricative sounds like S, H, and F are high in pitch. When hearing in the low frequencies is normal, loudness is normal and vowel sounds can still be heard easily, but it’s easy to miss important high-frequency consonant sounds.
Tiny hair cells inside the cochlea process incoming sounds. High-frequency sounds are processed at the base of the cochlea, while low-frequency sounds are processed near the top. Hair cells at the base of the cochlea are more susceptible to damage than hair cells closer to the top, that’s why hearing loss often effects high frequencies before low frequencies.
Hair cells in the cochlea can be damaged by a number of factors, including: noise, age, ototoxic medications and disease. Age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss often effect the high frequencies first.
Hearing aids can help people with high-frequency hearing loss
Hearing aids are an effective treatment option for high-frequency hearing loss. Open fit hearing aids, and custom hearing aids with large vents leave the ear open to maximize normal hearing in the low- and mid-frequency ranges, amplifying only the frequencies affected by the hearing loss.
Cutting-edge technology processes speech differently than noise and can help reduce the listening fatigue commonly associated with high-frequency hearing loss. There are many options available to correct high-frequency hearing loss. Your hearing professional will work with you to find the best option for you.
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