A frequent question from patients concerns being able to hear in crowded places. When they are talking to people one-on-one, or in small groups of people there is no problem, and they seem to hear just fine. But in a crowd, such as a noisy party or in large public gatherings, suddenly it becomes difficult to understand what the person speaking to them is saying, or to distinguish the speaker’s voice from the background sounds. The same people that have difficulty with crowds, will often also express that they find it challenging to hear and distinguish certain consonants especially S, H, and F.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, there is a possibility that you may have suffered some form or high-frequency hearing loss. Human speech, especially the consonants “S,” “H,” and “F,” fall into the range of sounds between 3000 and 8000 Hertz, which scientists define as “high-frequency.” 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.

At least 18 percent of the population suffers from some form of high-frequency hearing loss. 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. Other factors that can cause hearing loss include genetics, exposure to toxic drugs (including some chemotherapy agents), diabetes, and other diseases.

If you are having trouble hearing in crowds and the reason turns out to be high-frequency hearing loss you’ll be glad to know that this 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.

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