When someone has difficulty hearing sounds that fall within the 2,000 to 8,000 Hertz range, this condition is known as high-frequency hearing loss. Although most adults will be able to hear a variety of different sounds, from lower frequencies to higher-pitched noises, people with high-frequency hearing loss may have difficulty distinguishing and understanding sounds that fall in the upper end of the spectrum. It is typically characterised by a difficulty in hearing high pitched sounds and voice
While symptoms may vary from person to person, most people with high-frequency hearing loss have difficulty hearing and understanding high pitched sounds. The voices of women and children may be challenging to understand due to their higher pitch, while the sound of devices beeping, doorbells ringing or birds chirping may also be difficult to hear.
High-frequency hearing loss can also make it difficult to hear certain sounds in conversation, including ‘f’, ‘h’, ‘ch’, ‘th’ and ‘s’ sounds. This may be particularly noticeable when chatting in large groups or in a location with excess background noise, such as a busy cafe or restaurant.
High-frequency hearing loss may occur for a variety of different reasons. Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a common cause, with many people experiencing difficulty hearing higher frequencies as they get older. Long term exposure to loud noise, as well as one-time exposure to excessive noise, such as an explosion, can also affect your ability to hear higher frequency sounds.
Other ear conditions, such as repeated and untreated ear infections, and severe cases of Meniere’s disease, may also make it more difficult to understand high-frequency noises. Some medications, including chemotherapy treatments and some types of antibiotics, can also have side effects that either temporarily or permanently result in hearing loss.
At the present time, high-frequency hearing loss cannot be treated or reversed. However, hearing aids may be able to assist people living with the condition.
If you believe that you may experience high-frequency hearing loss, book a hearing test with your local audiologist. Using the results collected during your hearing test, they may be able to suggest the best options available to you.
Although high-frequency hearing loss may not be preventable in some situations, whether it occurs as the result of general ageing or from taking certain medications that are required for other medical conditions, steps can be taken to prevent it from developing in some cases. If you are exposed to loud noise as a part of your job, it’s important that you use adequate hearing protection. Additionally, if your favourite hobbies, such as attending concerts, woodwork or recreational shooting, involve a high level of noise, protecting your ears using earplugs or earmuffs is key. When listening to music with headphones, look to keep the volume at a safe level, and, if possible, consider minimising your general exposure to loud noise.