What Is High-Frequency Hearing Loss (And What Can You Do About It)?

Female child whispering into a woman's ear


Are you or someone you know having difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds?

While your hearing may otherwise be functional, you may notice difficulty hearing sounds like the doorbell, beeping alarms or women’s and children’s voices.

High frequency hearing loss is related to sound vibrations

We call this ‘high-frequency’ hearing loss because it is specific to certain sound vibrations.

Frequency is the pitch of a sound, while intensity is the volume of a sound.

High-frequency hearing loss means high-pitched sounds are harder to hear.

While high-frequency hearing loss can affect individuals at any age, it occurs more often in adults with age-related hearing loss and people exposed to loud noises.

Symptoms of high-frequency hearing loss

Microwave beeping on a kitchen counter is hard to hear with high-frequency hearing loss

Photo credit: Lissete Laverde, Unsplash

If you stare blankly at your spouse when they ask, ‘What’s that beeping?’ because you don’t hear anything at all, you may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss.

Other symptoms include:

  • Missing an alarm, timer, or other alert that uses a high-pitched beeping sound.
  • Speech may sound muffled, especially on the phone, watching television, or in noisy situations.
  • Difficulty hearing women’s and children’s voices because they are in a higher register.
  • Struggling to hear certain consonants (such as s, h or f) because they are spoken at a higher pitch.
  • Hearing but not understanding words spoken to you.
  • Absence of birds singing, cats trilling or other higher-pitched animal sounds.
  • Anxiety and/or depression.

What causes high-frequency hearing loss?

We’re more prone to losing our high-frequency hearing as we age because our tiny hair cell receptors in the ear degrade over time. 

Aside from aging, there are a number of other factors that contribute to high-frequency hearing loss, including:

  • Genetics
  • Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL)
  • Ototoxic medications (those that are toxic to the ear)
  • Age-related hearing loss (also called presbycusis)
  • Meniere’s disease

Protecting yourself against high-frequency hearing loss

While some instances of high-frequency hearing loss can’t be avoided - for example, it’s difficult to escape your genetics - there are steps you can take to prevent high-frequency hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noise.

Protect your hearing against noise exposure by:

  • Monitoring, and if possible, controlling the noise volume in your environment
  • Wearing protective muffs or ear plugs when exposed to loud noise 
  • Consider custom earplugs - this is especially useful if you’re a musician, if you ride a motorcycle or participate in other loud activities
  • Use custom earbuds if you listen to music with in-the-ear headphones
  • Be proactive if you have loud hobbies like woodworking, landscaping or shooting firearms.

How we diagnose high-frequency hearing loss

If you suspect you may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss, it’s important to book an appointment with an Audiologist.  Your Audiologist will take your case history, and conduct a Hearing Evaluation to measure your current hearing levels.

This will help rule out any other possible issues that may be contributing to your symptoms, and also help determine a suitable treatment plan.

Can high-frequency hearing loss be treated?

Audiologist fitting a hearing aid on a man's ear

The good news is, in most cases, high-frequency hearing loss can be treated; usually with hearing aids.

At the Broadmead and Oak Bay Hearing Clinics, we often prescribe a receiver-in-the-ear (RIC) model of hearing aid for high-frequency hearing loss. 

How RIC hearing aids can benefit you:

  • They use an “open fit” which allows the ear canals to stay open
  • Good for mild-to-moderate high-frequency hearing loss
  • Allows you to hear low frequencies naturally without amplification
  • High frequencies are enhanced, which improves clarity of speech
  • They are light, easy to wear, and come in a variety of colours

If you aren't hearing high-pitched sounds, speak to us

If you are struggling to hear sounds at those higher register frequencies and want to schedule a Hearing Evaluation with an Audiologist, please call: Broadmead Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2969 or Oak Bay Hearing Clinic: 250-479-2921. Or request an appointment online.