High Frequency Hearing Loss

November 12, 2012

High Frequency Hearing Loss

Hearing loss which is caused by too much exposure to excessive noise or by the aging process always begins with the high frequencies being affected.

High frequency sounds above approximately 3000 to 4000 Hz (hertz) begin to be more difficult to hear as we grow older even though other frequencies can be heard just as well as before. Because only selected frequencies are affected this type of hearing loss presents specific problems in trying to make sense of speech.

The problem with the high frequency hearing loss is that the range where most of the speech is transmitted is at the same level. Vowel sounds are normally well below this range but there are particular consonant sounds that have frequencies above the level of 3000 Hz.

High frequency hearing loss makes certain sounds difficult to distinguish. These are f, s and th. The unvoiced consonants that are also difficult to distinguish are k and t. At times ch and sh can also be difficult to tell the difference and the phrases below may all sound similar.

  • Face the facts

  • Chase the cat

  • Fake the stats

  • Take the cash

  • Shake the sack

If you are unable to hear the consonants clearly enough that you can tell the difference, then the sound of any speech will be muddled. It may be that you can hear people talking but there are certain occasions when you cannot understand exactly what is being said as it is not sounding clear. For many people this can be the first sign of experiencing hearing loss. Another indication of high frequency hearing loss is male voices are more easy to understand compared to females and children because the voices of males are normally at a lower frequency and hence sound as though it is pitched lower.

As the loss of hearing continues to progress, a bigger range of frequencies will be affected. The speech you hear might sound like vowels being spoken but with no separation in between.

A natural thing to do if you cannot understand what a person is saying would be to ask them to speak a bit louder. This causes a problem for people with high frequency hearing loss because once the person starts to speak louder it is only vowels and consonants that are voiced. And unvoiced consonants cannot be made louder.

This leads to frustration for the person who has the high frequency hearing loss. The person is now speaking louder and the vowels are not causing any problems but you still have difficulties in understanding what they are saying. If you add on a loud environment such as a party, restaurant or bar this leads to increased difficulties in being able to hear speech.

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