High frequency hearing loss causes problems with hearing high-pitched sounds. It can also lead to problems understanding fast speech. Damage to the hair-like structures in your inner ear can cause this specific type of hearing loss.

Frequency is a measure of the number of vibrations a sound wave makes per second. For example, a sound measured at 4,000 Hz vibrates 4,000 times per second. The frequency, which is the pitch of a sound, is different from the intensity, which is how loud a sound feels.

For example, the note middle C on a keyboard has a frequency of roughly just below 262 Hz. If you lightly tap the key, you can produce a sound with a low intensity that’s barely audible. If you hit the key harder, you can produce a much louder sound at the same pitch.

Anybody can develop high frequency hearing loss, but it becomes more common with age. Exposure to loud sounds or high frequency sounds are common causes of ear damage in younger people.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the symptoms and causes of high frequency hearing loss. We’ll also tell you how you can take steps to protect your ears.

If you have high pitch hearing loss, you may have trouble hearing sounds like:

  • doorbells
  • phone and appliance beeps
  • female and children voices
  • birds and animal sounds

You may also have trouble discriminating between different sounds when there’s background noise present.

Hearing loss is extremely common in the United States. Roughly 22 million people are exposed to dangerous levels of noise at work. Once the structures in your inner ear are damaged, it often isn’t possible to reverse hearing loss.

Hearing damage can either be classified as sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, or a combination of the two.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the more common type. It occurs when your auditory nerve or the hair cells inside your inner ear’s cochlea become damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent but may be improved with hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Conductive hearing loss is less common. This type of hearing loss involves a blockage or damage to your middle ear or outer ear structures. It may be caused by built-up ear wax or a broken ear bone. In some cases, this type of hearing loss may be reversible.

If you have hearing loss, you should visit a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

Your outer ear funnels sound toward your ear canal and ear drum. The three bones in your middle ear called the malleus, incus, and stapes carry vibrations from your ear drum to a spiraling organ in your inner ear called the cochlea.

Your cochlea contains hair cells with tiny hair-like projections called stereocilia. These structures convert sound vibrations into neural impulses.

When these hairs become damaged, you may experience high frequency hearing loss. You have about 16,000 hair cells in your cochlea when you’re born. Hearing damage might not be detectable until 30 to 50 percent of hair cells are damaged.

The following factors can lead to damage of your stereocilia.


Age-related hearing loss is common among older adults. About 1 in 3 people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss. It affects half of adults over age 75.

Noise damage

You can suffer hearing damage from both high frequency sounds and overly loud sounds. Frequently using headphones at a loud volume can cause permanent hearing loss.

One 2018 study examined the relationship between portable music players and hearing loss in children. The researchers looked at more than 3,000 children between the ages of 9 and 11. They found that 14 percent of the children had some degree of high frequency hearing loss. Children who used portable music players just once or twice a week were more than twice as likely to have hearing loss that those who didn’t use the music players at all.

Middle ear infection

Infections of the middle ear have the potential to cause a buildup of fluid and temporary hearing loss. Permanent damage to your eardrum or other middle ear structures might occur in cases of serious infection.


Tumors called acoustic neuromas can press on your auditory nerve and cause hearing loss and tinnitus on one side.


Hearing loss may be partially genetic. If somebody in your family has hearing loss, you’re predisposed to developing it, too.


Medications that can cause hearing impairments by harming the inner ear or auditory nerve are referred to as ototoxic. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some antibiotics, and some cancer treatment medications are among potential ototoxic medications.

Meniere’s disease

Meniere’s disease targets your inner ear and causes fluctuating hearing loss, tinnitus, and vertigo. It’s caused by a buildup of fluid in the inner ear that may be caused by a viral infection, immune response, a blockage, or a genetic predisposition. Meniere’s disease generally affects one ear.

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing or buzzing noise in your ears. It’s thought that as many as 60 million people in the United States have some form of tinnitus. Often, hearing loss accompanies the symptoms of tinnitus. It’s important to note that tinnitus may be a symptom of hearing loss but not a cause.

High frequency sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent and is commonly caused by damage to the hair cells in your cochlea. A hearing aid that targets high frequency sounds may be the best option if your hearing loss is serious enough to impair your life.

Technological improvement in the past 25 years has led to the creation of hearing aids that can better match your specific type of hearing loss. Modern hearing devices often even have Bluetooth technology to sync with phones and tablets.

You can take steps to prevent high frequency hearing loss by avoiding sounds with a high pitch or frequency. Even one-time exposure to loud noises over 85 decibels can cause irreversible hearing loss.

Here are some ways to protect your hearing.

  • Minimize your exposure to loud noises.
  • Use earplugs or earmuffs when exposed to loud noises.
  • Keep your earbud and headphone volume on the low side.
  • Take breaks away from the TV or radio.
  • Get regular hearing tests to catch hearing problems early.

Your range of hearing shrinks as you age. Children can often hear sounds that the average adult is oblivious to. However, if you notice a sudden loss or change in your hearing, it’s a good idea to get your hearing tested right away.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss that occurs typically in just one ear is known as sudden sensorineural deafness. If you experience this you should see a doctor right away.

Humans can hear sounds in the frequency range between about 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz. Babies may be able to hear frequencies above this range. For many adults, the limit of upper range for hearing is around 15,000 to 17,000 Hz.

For reference, some species of bats can hear sounds as high as 200,000 Hz, or about 10 times higher than the human limit.

In most cases, high frequency hearing loss is irreversible. It’s commonly caused by the natural aging process or from exposure to loud sounds.

You can reduce your chances of developing high frequency hearing loss by dialing down the volume when using headphones, using earplugs when exposed to loud noises, and living an overall healthy lifestyle.