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I can hear, but it’s not clear

High Frequency Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Lam Sze Ting on 26 May 2015


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Written by: Lam Sze Ting


High-frequency sounds in everyday life include sounds like birds chirping or a clock ticking. In speech, it would consist of consonants like /s/ in ‘sun’ and /f/ in ‘fish’. 


“E you on aur ay!”

Did you understand this sentence? This is how a person with high frequency sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) will hear the sentence ‘See you on Saturday’.


Why are high-frequent sounds important in understanding speech?

Many of us assume that hearing loss is just about the loss of volume. However, it is often also about the loss of clarity. For example, someone with normal hearing will hear the word ‘fish’, but someone with high-frequency SNHL will hear ‘ish’. Not hearing consonants will reduce clarity, and hence understanding of the sentence. This puts you at risk of guessing during conversation and/or asking the speaker to repeat numerous times. You can hear loud enough but it is not clear.


What causes high-frequency SNHL?

Consequences of ageing or prolonged exposure to noise will lead to a damage of the hair cells in your cochlea (inner ear). The hair cells are responsible for carrying electrical impulses to the brain through sensory nerves. When the outer hair cells, which are responsible for high-frequent sounds, are damaged, signals are not transmitted to the auditory nerve and the brain. Your brain, which is responsible for speech discrimination and comprehension, will not receive accurate information, and this will lead to misunderstanding and guessing.


What can be done if you have high-frequency sensorineural hearing loss?

High-frequency SNHL is the most common type of hearing loss, but it is also the most neglected hearing loss. The term presbycusis is often used for high frequency sloping hearing loss seen in elderly patients due to ageing. BUT do not be tricked. High-frequency SNHL can occur to anyone. In fact, we are seeing a rise in the number of teenagers and working adults with this type of hearing loss.


With advanced technologies in hearing aids, 95% of people with hearing loss can be helped. Hearing aids nowadays are small, discreet and fully automatic. They can effectively reduce background noise and amplify speech accurately based on your hearing loss without manual interaction. Sounds are also better reproduced, more natural and similar to the usual sounds we hear. They can also be paired with wireless accessories and entertainment products such as your mobile phone, computer or television, allowing you to truly enjoy a stereo sound quality. For those who prefer manual adjustments, you can download remote apps and your smartphone can act as a remote control.



Source: Digi-Sound. Reproduced with permission.



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