Patients commonly inquire precisely why hearing in crowds of people is particularly challenging for them. Person-to-person conversations and even small group conversations don’t cause them any trouble. 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. People who complain of this also often mention having trouble hearing the consonants “S,” “F,” and “H,” no longer being able to distinguish one from the other.
If this situation sounds familiar to you, it may be an indication that you have suffered some degree of high-frequency hearing loss. Sound comes in different frequencies, and human speech – especially the consonants mentioned above – tends to fall into the range that scientists define as “high-frequency,” between 3000 and 8000 Hz. 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. Those suffering from high-frequency hearing loss tend to perceive the low-frequency sounds (which in this case qualify as noise) as sounding louder than the high-frequency sounds they are trying to focus on – the voices of people speaking to them.
High-frequency hearing loss is common, afflicting at least 18% of the population. 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. High-frequency hearing loss can also be the result of diabetes, a side affect of certain prescription drugs or genetic factors.
The important thing to remember is that if you have suffered some degree of high-frequency hearing loss, it can be effectively treated. Hearing aids can be adjusted to amplify the higher frequencies and suppress lower frequencies, with the result that you can hear voices better in crowded rooms.
The first step is to visit one of our specialists, and make sure that the problem is caused by a loss of hearing. There are other causes for this, and our specialists can perform tests to determine whether the cause in your case really is hearing loss, and if so, treat it.