A frequent question from patients pertains to the ability to hear in crowded rooms. Person-to-person conversations and even small group conversations don’t cause them any trouble. But when they find themselves in a large crowd they often find it very difficult to understand what the people speaking to them directly are saying, or even to hear their voices over the background noise. People who complain of this also often mention having trouble hearing the consonants “F,” “S,” and “H,” no longer being able to distinguish one from the other.
If you are experiencing these symptoms, there is a possibility that you may have suffered some form or high-frequency hearing loss. Sound comes in different frequencies, and human speech – especially the consonants mentioned above – tends to fall into the range that scientists define as “high-frequency,” between 3000 and 8000 Hertz. 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. Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss will report that the low-frequency sounds are much louder to them. To them it is as if the ‘background noise’ has been amplified relative to the human speech they are trying to focus on.
High-frequency hearing loss is common, afflicting at least 18 percent of the population. The most common cause of this is aging, but in recent years audiologists have found increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults suffering from it, possibly as a result of listening to overly loud music. High-frequency hearing loss can also be the result of diabetes, a side affect of certain prescription drugs or genetic factors.
If you have indeed suffered some high-frequency hearing loss, it can be 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. Our specialists can perform tests to determine whether your problem hearing in crowds is really related to hearing loss, or whether it might arise from other causes.