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Using Higher Frequencies Could Help Detect Hearing Loss Earlier

by April Maguire

For the last several years, experts around the globe have been sounding the alarm about a staggering increase in the rate of hearing loss. While some of this impending problem is due to the natural physical decline of the aging Baby Boomer generation, a significant portion is related to noise-induced hearing loss among Millennials. Fortunately, however, researchers may have discovered a way to detect hearing decline earlier, allowing them to more effectively treat it.

Implementing Higher Frequencies

Having a hearing test performed by a trained audiologist is the only reliable way to detect hearing decline. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a top-end frequency of 4,000 hertz when performing these types of tests on adolescents. Recently, however, a team of researchers from Penn State gave a series of hearing exams to more than 130 high school juniors, using 8,000 hertz as the frequency threshold, and the results were surprising.

In these types of hearing tests, the two most important categories are specificity and sensitivity. With this change in protocol, the level of specificity – which measures how accurately the test can identify if a subject is not suffering from hearing loss – decreased slightly from 91% to 81%. The trade-off, however, was that the sensitivity level – which indicates how accurately a test can identify hearing loss – increased dramatically, from 58% to 79%.

In short, these increased sensitivity numbers mean that higher frequencies allowed the researchers to detect hearing loss earlier. And early detection is the most important factor in curbing hearing loss.

Early Intervention

Once you know that your hearing ability is degrading, you can take steps to slow the decline. In young people, exposure to loud noises is the most common culprit. Listening to music at high volumes on personal listening devices, frequently attending concerts, spending time in noisy venues and even gunshot blasts during hunting can all contribute to hearing decline.

For young people experiencing noise-induced hearing loss, it's important to identify the source of the damage. After you figure out which lifestyle factors are causing your hearing loss, you can minimize their impact or cut them out of your life entirely. However, if you allow the noise pollution to continue unabated, your hearing ability will continue to decline. And once noise-induced hearing loss has set in, it's virtually impossible to reverse.

More testing is needed to determine if the Penn State's new testing protocol should become the gold standard. But if the researchers have found a better method to measure hearing loss, it could preserve the hearing ability of tens of millions of people.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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