Well, you did it ... you finally listened to your friends and family (and possibly to my articles) and got a hearing evaluation. Maybe you did it “just to prove them wrong.” Deep down you knew you were missing a little bit of the conversation. The result: you have a “high frequency hearing loss.”
What exactly does that mean? What kind of problems does it cause?
A high frequency hearing loss specifically is referencing the area of hearing where the speech cues come from. The alphabet is made up of vowels and consonants. The letters that are vowels are very strong and powerful ... A, E, I, O, U. Then there are the consonants; these are soft sounds with less sound intensity. These are the letters that make up the meanings of the words ... S, T, C, for example, and, of course, the combinations, like ‘SH’.. ‘CH..’ ‘TH..’ There are many consonants and combinations.
The low frequency sounds give you volume and quite a bit of background noise. Only 15-20% of speech understanding comes from the low sounds. The high frequencies provide up to 80% of speech understanding capabilities. Women’s voices are also in the high frequencies. So what does it mean when you have been told you have a “high frequency hearing loss”? How do you apply this to your life?
This type of diagnosis means that you have normal hearing in the low frequencies. Therefore, the volume of things in your environment is fine. You will hear background noise perfectly. Your voice may sound pretty normal ... especially if you are a guy. This makes it very hard for a man to know if he has a hearing problem. Because he may hear volume perfect, he may just think his wife is mumbling or he needs to get a newer TV. Women, on the other hand, may feel that they are talking a little too loud for the situation but not quite sure why. They also have more difficulties when out with the girls.
Just because things are loud enough for comfort does not make them clear. For example, you are sitting around with family watching TV. They are laughing and enjoying the show, but you just can’t quite understand it. You try turning it up, but the background noise is the only things that seems to get louder. By the time you increase the volume enough to catch a few more words then everyone is complaining the TV is too loud. Perhaps you go into a restaurant and you can hear the guy across the table pretty decent, but then the girl starts to speak and it sounds like a mumble. This is typical of a high frequency hearing loss.
You may have noticed the blinker in your car is very soft. Maybe you think you have the quietest refrigerator on the planet.
We hear with our brains. It is very important to stimulate your brain with all of the auditory stimulus that it is meant to have in order to keep our brain healthy. Even a mild high frequency loss is correctable. You do not have to wait to be off the chart in order to hear conversation better. Hearing instruments today use integrated directional microphone systems to determine how and where your head is pointing, thus, determining who you are actually listening too. This system then communicates to the rest of the hearing instruments to determine where and what type of noise is competing with the speech you are trying to hear and the system can make adjustments to get you the very best speech understanding available ... whether in noise or in quiet.
Like everything with our bodies and minds, the longer you wait to fix “an issue” the harder it is to get used to the solution. If you have been told you have a high frequency hearing loss then the time has come for you to take steps in correcting that pathway to the brain. To Hear Better Is To Live Better!
Roseann B. Kiefer, B.A., BC-HIS, is owner of Lampe and Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Sebring. This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure your condition. Always talk to your doctor before following any medical advice or starting a diet or exercise program.