You may be tempted to say no immediately. The problem is that hearing loss tends to be subtle except in severe cases. You may be hearing impaired without even realizing it — especially if you're suffering from high-frequency hearing loss.

What is High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

In addition to being classified by level of severity and cause, hearing loss can be divided into one of two broad categories.

  • High-frequency hearing loss means you have difficulty hearing sounds ranging from 2000-8000 Hz. Examples may include a child's voice, birdsong, and high-pitched instruments such as the flute or violin. 
  • Low-frequency hearing loss means you struggle to hear sounds of 2000 Hz or lower, such as thunder, the barking of a large dog, or low-pitched instruments such as the tuba. Low-frequency hearing loss is also referred to as reverse-slope hearing loss.

What Causes High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

Contrary to what popular culture may have told you, hearing loss is not strictly something that affects the elderly. Anyone can suffer from hearing impairment at any age. And the potential causes, especially where high-frequency hearing loss is concerned, are incredibly diverse.

The causes of high-frequency hearing loss include:

  • Aging. Typically manifesting between the ages of 65-70, age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is present in nearly half of people past age 75. 
  • Noise exposure. Prolonged exposure to noise above 75 decibels or any exposure to noise above 120 decibels together represents one of the most common causes of hearing impairment just after aging. 
  • Viral infection. Untreated ear infections, particularly in early childhood, can cause permanent damage to the ear. 
  • Maternal issues.  A viral infection during pregnancy may lead to congenital hearing loss, which may also be caused by maternal drug use, alcohol use, or diabetes. Impaired hearing is among the problems that may occur due to premature birth. 
  • OtotoxicityCertain medications, particularly those used to treat cancer and heart disease, are known to cause hearing impairment in some individuals.
  • Acoustic neuroma. This type of tumor primarily affects the auditory nerve. It may be caused by radiation exposure or the result of a disease such as neurofibromatosis. 

What Are the Symptoms of High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

High-frequency hearing loss may affect one or both ears. It also varies in severity as to its symptoms. It may be barely noticeable for some people, whilst in other cases, there's obviously something wrong. 

The most common signs to watch for include: 

  • Tinnitus. A buzzing, roaring, clicking, or ringing in the ear. 
  • Difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. 
  • Difficulty making out speech, particularly words with consonants like f and s. 
  • Vertigo.
  • Balance problems.
  • Difficulty hearing individual sounds when there's a large amount of background noise
  • Children may experience learning difficulties or developmental delays. 
  • Turning up the volume of media to an excessive level. 

How is High-Frequency Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

If you suspect you may be suffering from high-frequency hearing loss, your first step is to visit an audiologist. They'll likely begin with a pure screening test, subjecting you to a range of different frequencies at a range of different levels. They may also perform a physical exam and ask you why you suspect you have hearing loss. 

How is High-Frequency Hearing Loss Treated?

Although there are several promising treatments currently undergoing clinical trials, there is no known cure for high-frequency hearing loss at the time of writing. The condition can be managed, however, typically through a hearing assistance device such as a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Your audiologist can walk you through your options in that regard. 

Can High-Frequency Hearing Loss Be Prevented?

In a word, no. 

Although you can avoid noise-induced hearing loss by avoiding loud environments and ensuring you always have proper ear protection on hand, age-related hearing loss cannot be prevented. Like the rest of the body, the ears begin to lose effectiveness as we age. Similarly, hearing loss related to genetic factors is also unavoidable.