Photo courtesy of Tracey Keilty, one of the brilliant entries to the “My Help in Hearing” Photo Competition
Here’s something most people are surprised to learn: In many cases people with hearing loss can hear a number of sounds just fine, and have trouble only with specific sounds, so you may not realise what you are missing out on. In particular, if you have trouble only with high-pitched sounds, you may have the most common type of hearing loss, referred to as high-frequency or sensorineural hearing loss. With high-frequency hearing loss, you can in all probability hear lower-pitched sounds normally, causing the perception that your hearing is normal. Higher-pitched sounds, however, may not be heard at all.
So which frequencies should you be able to hear with normal hearing?
To begin with, sound can be classified both by its intensity (measured in decibels) and by its frequency or pitch (measured in hertz).
With normal hearing, you’d have the ability to hear sounds inside the frequency range of 20 to 20,000 hertz, but the most important sounds are within the range of 250 to 6,000 hertz. Inside of that range, you would be able to hear most frequencies at a fairly low volume of between 0-25 decibels. With high-frequency hearing loss, you might be able to hear the lower frequencies at fairly low volumes (0-25 decibels), but you wouldn’t be able to hear the higher frequency sounds without raising the volume (by as high as 90 decibels with severe hearing loss).
So which higher-pitched sounds, specifically, would you have difficulty hearing with high-frequency hearing loss? Here are four:
Speech incorporates a combination of both low and high frequency sounds. Vowel sounds, such as the short “o” in the word “hot,” have low frequencies and are usually easy to hear even with hearing loss.
Problems occur with consonants such as “s,” “h,” and “f,” which have higher frequencies and are much harder to hear. Since consonants convey the majority of the meaning in speech, it’s no wonder that those with high frequency hearing loss have difficulty following conversations or understanding speech on television programmes.
It is also worth mentioning that background noises are generally of a low frequency, which is often why background noise is louder than speech when we are in noisy environments, making it more difficult for us to hear clearly.
Voices of Women and Children
For large numbers of us men who have been accused of ignoring their wives or of having “selective hearing,” there might for once be a valid excuse.
Women and children tend to have higher-pitched voices with less amplitude, or loudness. For this reason, those with hearing loss might find it much easier to hear a male voice. Many of our patients do tell us they that are not able to hear their grandchildren, and this is often the primary incentive for booking a hearing assessment. (Photo courtesy of our client Sheila Baker who entered into our My Help in Hearing Photo competition: “Having hearing aids enables me to hear my granddaughter laughing and the sound of the waves!”
The songs of birds chirping are generally in the higher frequencies, which means you may stop hearing these sounds entirely.
In fact, we’ve lost count of the number of patients specifically cite their excitement and surprise when they could hear the sounds of birds again, once fitted with their new hearing aids. (Photo courtesy of our client Yvonne Cooke who entered into our My Help in Hearing Photo competition: “This photo makes me so Happy as I can Now hear the Robin sing. He comes to be by my side every time that I am in the garden”.
Certain Musical Instruments
The flute, the violin, and other musical instruments capable of crafting high frequency sounds can be difficult to hear for those with hearing loss.
Music in general does tend to lose some of its potency in those with hearing loss, as specific instruments and frequencies cannot be differentiated.
How Hearing Aids Can Help
Along with the above, you may have trouble hearing several other sounds, like rustling leaves, rainfall, and the sound of flowing water. But it’s not impossible to get these sounds back.
The answer to treating hearing loss is in amplifying only the distinct frequencies you have trouble hearing. That’s why it’s vital to obtain the right hearing aids and to have them programmed by a skilled audiology professional.
If you amplify the wrong frequencies, or worse yet amplify all frequencies, you’re not going to get the results you want.
If any of the above sounds familiar then book yourself a hearing assessment. My colleagues and will be able to comprehensively test your hearing, identify the frequencies you have trouble with, and both recommend and program hearing aids for optimal hearing.
Are you ready to start enjoying your favourite sounds again?
Click here to contact us and book an appointment.