Do you face trouble hearing high-pitched sounds? It can be due to high-frequency hearing loss. Read the article below to learn more about it.
Hearing is one of the main senses of human beings. Frequency is defined as a quantity or the number of vibrations made by a sound wave in one second. Frequency is different from the pitch as the pitch is to describe how loud the sound is. A normal human being has a hearing frequency ranging between 20 to 20,000 Hertz. Newborns and babies have a higher range than adults. Usually, the highest range of limits for hearing is nearly 15,000 to 17,000 Hz. Among other species, bats have a range of 200,000 Hz, which is almost ten times more than humans' normal limit.
High-frequency hearing loss is a condition that leads to issues with hearing high-pitched sounds. Some studies also show that damage to the hair-like structures that are present inside the ear can lead to a certain type of hearing loss.
This clinical condition can be developed in anyone, but the risk increases with aging. Even hearing a high range of sounds can lead to this. This article will explain this condition in detail and also how to prevent your ears.
In many countries, the prevalence of this condition is more. Once the inner layers of hair are damaged, it is quite difficult to reverse the condition.
There are three types of hearing loss which are sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, or mixed hearing loss (a combination of the above two).
Sensorineural - The sensorineural type is the most common and occurs when the nerve of the ear or auditory nerve or the hair cells that are present inside the ear are damaged. This type of hearing loss is permanent, but improvement can be seen by the usage of hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Conductive Hearing Loss - This is the next type that is less common than the first one. In this type, there is a blockage or injury to the middle ear or structures outside the ear, which causes hearing impairment. It is a reversible type of hearing loss, usually by various surgical modalities.
Mixed Hearing Loss - It consists of conductive pathology as well as injury to the nerve.
A patient with high pitch hearing loss may have problems with hearing certain sounds like:
Sounds of birds and animals.
Voices of females and children.
Notification sounds of phone or appliances.
Also, there may be problems with differentiating certain sounds if there is the presence of any other sound or noise in the background.
As mentioned above, if the hair cells of the ear or the nerve are damaged, high-frequency hearing loss can be experienced. There are about 16,000 hair cells in the cochlea when a child is born, and detection of hearing problems is difficult unless and until 30 to 50 percent of hair cells are affected.
Following are some of the factors that may contribute to hearing loss:
Aging - This type of hearing loss is commonly seen in adults ranging from 65 or above years. People who are above 75 years are more prone to such conditions.
Damage to the Ear Due to Noise - Hearing loss can be either due to high-frequency sounds or extremely loud sounds. For example, frequent usage of earphones can lead to hearing loss which can be permanent.
Infection of the Middle Ear - This type of infection can lead to a buildup of fluid and thus, cause temporary hearing loss. If a severe infection leads to certain complications, it can lead to permanent hearing loss.
Tumors - Tumors are unwanted growth in the body that may or may not be cancerous. Acoustic neuromas can lead to compression of the auditory nerve and thus, may lead to tinnitus and hearing loss on the affected side.
Genetics or Hereditary - Certain studies and clinical scenarios have shown that genes may also contribute to this condition.
Medications or Prescription Drugs - Certain medications that can lead to hearing loss by affecting the nerve of the ear or the inner ear are called ototoxic. Some examples are NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, cancer medications, and chemotherapeutic drugs, etc.
Meniere’s disease - This condition affects the inner ear which leads to hearing loss that is fluctuating in nature, vertigo, and tinnitus. The causative factor is the accumulation of fluid in the inner ear due to viral infection, block in the ear, immune response, or hereditary. This condition usually affects one ear only.
If you face any difficulty in hearing, you should consult your physician. Your doctor will ask certain questions and then will do some physical and laboratory tests if required.
Audiogram and Hearing Test Chart:
An audiogram is used to check for the type of hearing loss. It is a graph that reveals the ability of a person to hear the softest sounds at different levels of pitches or frequencies. It is plotted on a graph. If the marks are closer to the top of the graph, it shows that the patient can hear the softest sounds. The mark on the graph and the level of it denotes the type and severity of hearing loss in the patient.
There are basically six degrees or levels of hearing loss or hearing ability which can be read through the chart or graph, and the levels are as follows:
Mild hearing loss.
Moderate hearing loss.
Moderately severe hearing loss.
Severe hearing loss.
Profound hearing loss.
Tinnitus is a clinical symptom where there is continuous ringing or buzzing noise in the ears. Most of the time, hearing loss can occur along with tinnitus. It is an important fact that tinnitus can be a symptom depicting hearing loss, but it is never the cause of hearing loss.
As told earlier, sensorineural hearing loss can be permanent, and this can affect the quality of life in patients. But, with improvements in technology, hearing aids can be beneficial in such situations. Also, now, hearing devices have bluetooth, which is synced to mobiles and tablets.
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that are worn in or behind the ear, and they increase the frequency of sounds or make them a little louder so that the patients with hearing loss can identify the sound and hear it. It is helpful in both noisy and silent scenarios.
As prevention is always better than cure, taking certain measures can prevent serious damage to hearing ability. Most importantly, it is better to avoid high-pitched sounds. Following are the ways to prevent hearing loss:
Limit exposure to high or very loud noises.
It is advisable to use earplugs while exposed to high-pitched sounds.
Keep the sound to a minimum in phones.
Take breaks while listening to the TV (television) or radio.
If you face any problem with hearing or if you are a risk factor, it is better to get regular ear check ups done.
Hearing loss can affect your life, and it can become permanent too. If managed or diagnosed early, the prognosis is good. If you face any change or difficulty in hearing, consult your physician or specialist to know more about the condition. You can get more details about the condition from a specialist online via online medical platforms.
There are four types of hearing loss. These include:
- Conductive hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss.
- Mixed hearing loss.
- Auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder.
Some types of hearing loss are treatable. The options available are:
- Removing earwax with suction or a tool with a loop at one end.
- Fluid removal with draining tubes in patients with ear infections with fluid build-up.
- Surgery in patients with eardrum or auditory bone (ossicles) dysfunction or abnormality.
- Hearing aids in patients with inner ear damage.
- Cochlear implants in patients with advanced hearing loss (for stimulation of the auditory nerve which facilitates hearing).
Hearing aids are recommended as the gold-standard treatment for most permanent types of hearing loss (particularly sensorineural hearing loss).
Yes, high-frequency hearing loss is permanent, and is typically caused by damage to the hair cells in the cochlea (a bone in the inner ear). However, it is preventable if steps are taken to prevent exposure to noise frequencies above 85 decibels. Some of the ways this can be done are by using noise-canceling headphones or ear plugs, and avoiding constant exposure to loud noises.
Yes, high-frequency hearing loss can get progressively worse. This is especially true in older people with presbycusis (age-related hearing loss). It usually occurs in a gradual manner that may go unnoticed until it is severe enough to cause concern.
Medical conditions that cause high-frequency hearing loss include:
Severe, untreated middle ear infections.
- Acoustic Neuromas: Tumors that exert pressure on the auditory nerve and cause one-sided hearing damage and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears).
- Meniere’s Disease: Fluid buildup in the inner ear due to viral infections, blockage, or genetic causes that can result in hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo (spinning or off-balance sensation).
Hearing high-pitched frequencies may be a result of tinnitus. A person affected with tinnitus may hear low to high-pitched ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or roaring sounds in one or both ears. Tinnitus may occur due to the following factors:
- Consistent noise exposure.
- Inner ear pressure.
- Loss of sensory hair cells.
- Dysfunctional interactions between auditory neural circuits and the brain.
Prolonged exposure to sound frequencies above 85 decibels can result in hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss may occur with frequent exposure to 120 decibel (categorized as uncomfortable) or 140 decibel (pain threshold) sounds, or with exposure to sounds above a humanly bearable level (above 140 decibels).
High-frequency hearing loss in children is quite rare, but when it does occur, the following may be the reasons why:
- Genetic Causes: Autosomal dominant and recessive types of hearing loss, genetic conditions like Down's syndrome, Usher syndrome, Treacher Collins syndrome, etc.
- Premature birth.
- Birth Complications: Serious infections like herpes, rubella; oxygen insufficiency.
- Drugs taken by the mother during pregnancy such as certain antibiotics and pain relief medications.
- Meniere’s disease.
- Exposure to loud noises.
- Perforated eardrums.
- Infections like meningitis, mumps, and measles.
- Head injury.
- Frequent, untreated ear infections.
- Exposure to toxins, smoke, and other dangerous substances.
High-frequency hearing loss cannot be reversed or completely cured. However, it is possible to correct it with the help of hearing aids. Any suspicion of hearing issues must be reported to an audiologist so that adequate measures may be taken before the hearing loss worsens.
Diagnosing the cause of sudden hearing loss is possible in only about 15 % of cases.The cause remains unknown in most cases. Some of the possible causes are:
- Infections: Bacterial and viral infections.
- Autoimmune Diseases: Autoimmune inner ear disorder and other diseases.
- Tumors: Acoustic neuroma.
- Nerve Disorders: Multiple sclerosis.
- Circulatory Disorders: Vasculitis.
- Meniere’s disease.
- Head injury.
- Frequent, severe migraines.
- Ototoxic medications.
- Autoimmune hypothyroidism.
- Yes, online tests are available that can help to detect how well a person can hear. These tests should be taken in a quiet environment with minimal noise and distractions. They will help to test one’s ability to distinguish sounds in noisy areas.
- However, the quality of such applications is typically low, as they do not use the pure tones used by doctors and audiologists in medical hearing tests. Applications available on phones and laptops will have a huge degree of variability, and are therefore not substitutes for a proper medical test.
Hearing loss may be temporary if it can be attributed to causes such as:
- Earwax buildup.
- Recent exposure to loud noise.
- Ear infection.
- Extreme stress.
- Strenuous exercise.
Hearing loss may be permanent when the causes may be the following:
- Repeated exposure to loud noises.
- Health issues like Meniere’s disease, head injury or trauma, certain medications, etc.
- Age-related hearing loss or presbycusis.
- Sudden hearing loss may occur as an initial symptom of COVID-19 that indicates the onset of COVID. However, it is quite rare.
- More commonly (although still not frequent), hearing issues may develop later during the infection. These include tinnitus, hearing loss, and vertigo.
- Muffling of sounds and speech.
- Being unable to clearly hear the television and radio except at loud volumes.
- Difficulty with hearing consonant sounds.
- Difficulty with distinguishing speech and sounds when background noise is also present.
- Constantly asking people to repeat what they said more slowly and loudly.
Some of the commonest reasons for ear blocks include:
- Buildup of earwax.
- Otitis media or middle ear infection.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction that may occur due to infections, tissue growth, or ruptured eardrums.
- Barotrauma, which occurs due to differences in the pressure felt in the ears and external air pressure.
- Otitis externa or swimmer’s ear, which occurs due to infection of the canal between the outer ear and the eardrum.
- When these conditions progress and remain untreated, they may end up becoming severe and thereby causing hearing difficulties.
Muffled hearing can be treated by:
- Removing the blockage that causes the muffling.
- Using decongestants to reduce swelling and open up the Eustachian tube.
- Taking antibiotics for ear infections.
- Surgery for perforated eardrums or other problems like tumors of the inner ear.
- Hearing aids in case of irreversible ear loss.
When the cause of an ear block is an infection, allergy, or earwax, steam may help with getting rid of the problem and unclog the ears. The ears are connected to the sinuses, so steam can help with unclogging mucus or other blockages and thereby help with unclogging the ears.
Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by damage to nerve fibers present in the inner ear, or to the auditory nerve that connects the ear to the brain. It may be recognized by the following symptoms:
- Difficulty understanding conversations.
- Difficulty with hearing women’s and children’s voices.
- Sounds may appear to be extremely loud in one ear.
- Difficulty distinguishing sounds in loud areas.
- High-pitched sounds may be hard to understand or hear.
When the air pressure between the middle ear and the outside is different and unbalanced, it can result in a blocked or congested sensation in the ears, that is quite painful. When the middle ear adjusts to this difference, the pressure is usually resolved with a popping sensation of the ears. However, ear popping may not occur in the following cases:
- Fluid blocking the auditory tube in the ear.
- Excessive mucus congestion.
- Excessive amounts of earwax.
- Patulous Eustachian tube (rare condition where the Eustachian tube is always open).
When ear popping becomes difficult or does not occur, it may result in a persistent clogged ear sensation known as Eustachian tube dysfunction. This can lead to:
- Hearing loss.
- Ear clogging.
- Fluid buildup in the ears.
- Buildup of pressure and pain in the ears.
This may need a specialist’s intervention to pop the ears, including the prescription of steroids and antihistanmines, or a surgical procedure to place a tube in the eardrum that reroutes the escape of pressure through the ear canal and not the Eustachian tube.
Last reviewed at:
12 Apr 2022 - 5 min read
Article Overview: Cerebral palsy (CP) is a collection of disorders that result from damage to the developing brain. Read the article to know about its causes, symptoms, types, and treatment. Read Article
What Is Cerebral Palsy? Cerebral palsy, otherwise called CP, is a group of disorders that affect the coordination and movement of muscles. It generally results from damage to the developing brain before, during, or immediately after birth. In a few cases, the sense of sight, smell, and hearing can ... Read Article
Query: Hello doctor, I developed tinnitus all of a sudden last year. I am attaching the last year MRI images for your evaluation. Of late, I have some muscle pull in my calves. I am waiting for your evaluation. Read Full »
Query: Hello doctor, I am a BP patient. So, my doctor is giving Aspirin 75 mg from the past four months. But, due to the side effect of this, a tinnitus problem is there in the right ear. So, what can I do to cure this problem? Read Full »
Most Popular Articles
Do you have a question on High-frequency Hearing Loss or ?Ask a Doctor Online