Why High-Frequency Hearing Loss is on the Rise in Younger Demographics

When a person has a high-frequency hearing loss, it means that he or she has difficulty distinguishing sounds at certain pitches. For example, words with the letters s, v, t, h, and f can sound garbled to someone who has difficulty hearing accurately at this range. Hearing one letter wrong can also cause the person with high-frequency hearing loss to assume that the speaker meant an entirely different word. This can cause confusion and frustration for both parties.

What Do Audiologists Consider a High Frequency Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is in the high-frequency range if the patient has difficulty hearing sounds accurately between 2,000 to 8,000 Hertz. Hearing loss typically occurs slowly over time as hearing cells located within the cochlea of the ear start dying off. In addition to letter sounds, the person with high-frequency hearing loss may struggle to hear sounds such as a microwave or oven beeping, doorbell or the phone ringing, or an alarm clock. These issues can make life challenging without proper hearing amplification.

Causes of High-Frequency Hearing Loss in Younger People

While high-frequency hearing loss is relatively common in people over age 65, the problem is starting to affect children and young adults in greater numbers. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, high-frequency hearing loss among people aged 12 to 19 has increased at least a few percentage points every decade since the late 1980s.

Another survey conducted by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders report that more than 10 million Americans currently live with noise-induced hearing loss. There’s no doubt we live in a noisier world today than any other point in history. Between on-the-job exposure such as dentists who do a lot of drilling, fireworks, motorcycles and other vehicles, rock concerts, and the tendency towards constant connection to movies and music, the hearing cells deep inside of the cochlea face constant assault.  Other common causes of this type of hearing loss include:

  • Aging
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics containing aminoglycoside, large quantities of aspirin, and chemotherapy drugs
  • Certain diseases such as Meniere’s
  • Hereditary link

Regardless of the degree of the hearing loss or how it occurred, visiting an audiologist for testing and fitting of a hearing aid or other amplification device as soon as possible is essential.

Emerging Technology to Treat High-Frequency Hearing Loss

Because hearing aids can be expensive and health insurance companies don’t always provide coverage for them, people who struggle with hearing are increasingly looking for a better solution. This is especially true of younger people who either don’t have the resources for a hearing aid or don’t want to wear something typically associated with older people. One such example is the smart wireless earbuds known as IQbuds BOOST, made by the Australian start-up, Nuheara.

At a fraction of the cost of traditional hearing aids, these personalized hearing devices amplify high frequencies or low frequencies based on the wearer’s hearing profile. The hearing profile is generated through a built-in hearing exam called Ear ID on their smartphone application. This solution also makes it possible for users to start wearing the Nuheara product without having to visit an audiologist as well as navigate the simple settings on their own at home.