Why are high frequency sounds typically the first to go in hearing loss?

High-frequency hearing loss is a condition where people have difficulty hearing sounds between the 2,000 to 8,000 Hertz range. This means that certain high-frequency verbal sounds like ‘s’, ‘h’, or ‘f’, (the consonants) are more difficult to hear or distinguish from other sounds. While more commonly found as we get older, high-frequency hearing loss can occur at any age. When we have high-frequency hearing loss, it can cause us to have difficulty understanding high-pitched voices. Children’s voices and women’s voices can become difficult to hear clearly. People with high-frequency hearing loss are also likely to have difficulty hearing high-pitched beeping and bird songs. Even speech can seem muffled, especially when there is a lot of background noise. This often makes sufferers feel like they can still hear but they can’t interpret speech properly. Children who have this form of hearing loss might have difficulty in settings like the classroom, ultimately affecting their school work.

Why are high-frequency sounds typically the first to go in hearing loss?

High-frequency hearing loss can happen when the hair-like cells in the inner ear are damaged. Cells located in the cochlea that have been damaged or that have died can cause high-frequency hearing loss. In the cochlea, the tiny hairs help translate mechanical sound waves to electrical impulses which are then sent to the brain for interpretation. It is believed that the hair cells responsible for picking up high-frequency sounds are damaged first due to where they are located inside the cochlea.

How Does Hearing Loss Happen?

High-frequency hearing loss can be caused by a variety of reasons. These include noise, aging, genetics, and disease. Meniere’s disease affects the inner ear and often happens to people between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. This can cause tinnitus, vertigo, hearing loss, and intense episodic dizziness. Some medications can cause damage to your hearing. Drugs used for chemotherapy and antibiotics are particularly damaging to your hearing health. Aging is also a natural cause of hearing loss because the cells cannot repair as quickly. If relatives have hearing loss, you might also be more genetically predisposed to high-frequency hearing loss. Those who are exposed to high noise levels like machinery, gunshots, or loud music can experience irreversible hearing damage.

How Can I Prevent High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

Preventing hearing loss is the best way to avoid it because high-frequency hearing loss cannot be reversed. The best way to protect your hearing is to avoid high noise levels, especially noise that is louder than 85 decibels. Keep your personal electronics turned down and wear hearing protection when in noisy environments like concerts and sporting events. Use earplugs to protect your hearing. If you are involved in noisy hobbies, make sure you invest in over-the-ear hearing protection or custom earmolds.

Treatment Options for High-Frequency Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can happen from a number of different things, most of which cannot be treated with medication or surgery. However, the most effective method to treat hearing loss is through the use of professionally-fitted hearing aids. Though this won’t fix the underlying cause of hearing loss, it can help you optimize your current hearing ability and successfully navigate everyday life when you wear them. If you are concerned that you have hearing loss, make sure you consult a Doctor of Audiology to get tested. If your test indicates hearing loss, your Doctor of Audiology may recommend hearing aids. Hearing aid technology has greatly improved over the past decade, and many types have incredible sound quality for speech and music and can easily connect to other devices like your smartphone. When you work with an experienced Doctor of Audiology, your hearing aid technology can also be customized, and your treatment personalized to ensure you are fit appropriately and ultimately successful in the real world.

Schedule a Consultation

Your first step in hearing loss treatment is a hearing assessment with our Doctors of Audiology. During an assessment, we can perform tests to quantify your hearing, understand your unique hearing needs, and discuss your best hearing aid technology options. To get started, contact our New York City office by calling (212) 774-1971 or filling out our online form.