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Understanding High Frequency Hearing Loss
High frequency hearing loss is exactly what the name suggests; it’s when a person can no longer hear high frequencies. Almost everything known to us as human beings has a frequency, including the Earth spinning around on its axis. Hearing, for example, has its own frequency. People, who can hear normally and without the help of a hearing aid, typically hear between 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Hz, or Hertz, is the unit used to measure frequency. High frequency sounds range from 3,000 to 6,000 Hz, an example being vibrations. To understand what something with a frequency of 50 Hz sounds like, imagine the low rumbling of thunder from a storm approaching in the distance.
A person who loses the ability to hear high frequencies is typically suffering from an impairment of the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is generally associated with over exposure to high frequency noise.. Hearing loss due to over exposure is preventable. Hearing loss is associated with both occupational and recreational activities. To prevent damage to the inner ear, wear ear protection when working around high frequency noises like sirens, firearms, and power tools. For recreational purposes, listen to music at normal volumes and wear ear protection when using firearms, motorcycles, and snowmobiles.
The intensity to which you are exposed to noise as well as frequency determines how much damage you are causing to your inner ear. Intensity refers to loudness and frequency refers to pitch. Damage to the inner ear is possible because humans are sensitive to sounds played at high frequencies.
High frequency hearing loss results when hair cells of the basilar membrane within the cochlea die. Sound is transferred from the hair cells through the nerves and to the brain where it is processed. When the hair cells become damaged and die off, hearing is significantly impaired or lost all together. There are many contributing factors that can cause a person to lose the ability to hear high frequencies.
Old age is one of the most common contributions to this type of hearing loss. Half of people over the age of 75 suffer from hearing loss. As the human body ages, hair cells, which are part of the hearing process inside the ear, naturally break down and die. When this happens, it becomes harder to hear in noisy areas. Some sounds appear louder than others. Sounds that are high in pitch, like “s” and “th,” are difficult to distinguish. People’s voices sound muffled. Men’s voices are easier to hear than women’s, and ringing may occur in the ears.
Other causes of high frequency hearing loss are attributed to family history. Age-related hearing loss is commonly passed down from generation to generation. It is important to inform your doctor if your family has a history of hearing loss. Repeated exposure to loud noises like music concerts and listening to loud music though headphones are not only common causes, but preventable ones. Another lesser known cause is smoking. People who smoke are more likely to suffer from this type of hearing loss than nonsmokers. Other medical conditions and medications have been linked to the loss of hearing at high frequencies.
As of yet, there is no cure for high frequency hearing loss. Treatment is focused on improving hearing rather than restoring it. Before treatments are issued, a full physical examination is given. The purpose of the full physical examination is to rule out any underlying medical conditions that may be causing the hearing loss. The examination of the ear is not invasive nor is it painful. A doctor uses an instrument called an ostoscope to examine the ears. In the best case scenario, your hearing loss will be attributed to wax blocking out noise. In other cases, you may be referred to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for more in-depth testing at which time additional hearing tests will be performed.
The most common high frequency hearing loss treatment is the hearing aid, mainly due to a lack of knowledge of the new hearing loss treatment The Hearing Fix. Hearing aids come in many varieties, sizes, and functionalities. Your doctor will prescribe which hearing aid is best for you and explain to you how to properly use it. In some cases other assistive devices are used to aid in hearing such as telephone amplifiers. For severe hearing loss, sign language, speech reading and visual cues to aid in communication are used.