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A common question from patients relates to being able to hear in crowded places. Person-to-person conversations and even small group conversations don’t cause them any trouble. Not so in crowded situations. Whether in large public space outdoors such as a football game or indoors at a party, they report being unable to distinguish the speakers’ voice over the background noise. This is true even when the speaker is close by and addressing them directly. People who complain of this condition often report that they have difficulty distinguishing between consonants such as the letters “H,” “F,” and “S.”

If these challenges sounds familiar to you, it is possible that you have a degree of hearing loss in the high-frequency range. When describing human speech, audiologists define the 3000 to 8000 Hz range as high-frequency. This is the range that the F, S, and H sounds typically fall into. In a crowded situation there are many sounds across the frequency spectrum competing with one another. Much of the background noise – such as people dancing or walking – occurs at lower frequencies. Speech is layered on top of this in the higher frequency ranges. People with high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the lower frequencies – in this case, the noise – as sounding louder than the higher frequencies, which they are now having more trouble hearing.

High-frequency hearing loss is quite common. Some studies have found that as much as 18 percent of the population is affected. One of the possible causes for this condition is aging, but high-frequency hearing loss has in recent years been increasing in teenagers and younger adults as well, possibly as a result of being exposed to overly loud music, and suffering noise-induced hearing loss. There are other potential causes, including genetic factors, diabetes, exposure to toxic drugs such as chemotherapy agents, and other diseases.

The important thing to remember is that if you have suffered some degree of high-frequency hearing loss, it can be effectively treated. We can prescribe hearing aids that have been adjusted to reduce the volume of low-frequency sounds and boost the volume of the higher frequencies, so that you can hear better in crowds.

Before we get too far into treatment options, it is critical that you have a proper diagnosis. To find out if high-frequency hearing loss is the root cause behind your difficulty hearing in crowds, call and make a first appointment. There are other causes for this, and our specialists can perform tests to determine whether the cause in your case really is hearing loss, and if so, treat it.