Why is it So Difficult to Hear in Noisy Environments?

One very common question my patients ask relates to being able to hear in crowded and noisy environments. Often times, people who have no problem following conversations in small group settings or one-on-one, are challenged to follow along at parties or other larger gatherings. They find it difficult to hear what people are saying to them or to distinguish the peoples’ voices from the background sounds. People who suffer from this condition often note that they have difficulty distinguishing between soft consonants such as the letters F, S, SH, T, TH, etc.

Does this sound familiar to you? If so, it may possible that you have some hearing loss in the higher frequencies. Human speech, especially those “soft consonants” fall into the range of sounds between 3000 and 8000 Hz. These frequencies are defined as “high-frequency.” In crowded and noisy environments, there is a mix of frequencies, ranging from the low frequencies of background music or people walking or dancing to the higher frequencies of speech. People with a loss in the high frequency region tend to perceive the low-frequency sounds (noise) as sounding louder than the high-frequency sounds they are trying to focus on, like the voices of people speaking to them.

According to studies, at least 18% of the population suffers from some form of high-frequency hearing loss. In recent years, audiologists have found increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults suffering from it from this type of hearing loss. Other factors that can cause hearing loss include genetics, exposure to toxic drugs (including some chemotherapy agents), diabetes, and other diseases.

The most important thing to remember is that if you have some degree of high-frequency hearing loss, it can be effectively treated. Audiologists can prescribe hearing aids that have been adjusted to reduce the volume of low-frequency sounds (background noise) and boost the volume of the higher frequencies, allowing you to hear better in crowds.

It is critical that you receive a proper diagnosis. To find out if high-frequency hearing loss is the root cause behind your difficulty hearing in crowds, call and make an appointment at Audio Help Hearing Centers today. Our licensed audiologists can perform tests to determine whether your difficulties with hearing in crowds are related to hearing loss, or whether it caused by something else.