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High Frequency Hearing Loss

Q: Last spring, I went to bed one night with perfectly good hearing, and woke up the next morning with a loud annoying buzz in my ears. The noise hasn't gone away since, and it continues 24 hours a day. I haven't had a moment's silence in nearly a year, and I'm exhausted after so many virtually sleepless nights!

My doctor conducted a hearing test and told me I have high frequency hearing loss. Can that really happen overnight, and is there anything I can do to stop it?

Dr. Donnica: Sudden hearing loss is much more common that you'd think. It affects about one in every 5000 Americans each year. The cause is unknown, but is often attributed to a nonspecific virus or a vascular cause. In addition, aging and prolonged exposure to loud noise are common causes. The hearing loss is usually profound, but may return partially or completely in about two thirds of those affected.

Regrettably, there is no specific treatment, much to the frustration of those affected and the healthcare professionals who treat them. The good news is that this does not often affect the ability to interpret speech, which is usually in the low to mid-pitch frequency range. However, the missing high-frequency information interferes with word understanding. If this is your experience, you should meet with an audiologist to discuss strategies for coping with this situation.

Created: 10/25/2003  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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