Low frequency hearing loss

Causes, symptoms and treatment

What is low-frequency hearing loss?

Low frequency hearing loss is related to the inability to perceive low sounds. This disorder impairs the ability to perceive the sounds, such as thunder in the distance, any male voices or the notes played by a double bass or trombone. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to diagnose the disorder when symptoms first appear. 

Is low-frequency hearing loss different from others?

Low-frequency hearing loss compromises the ability to hear noises and sounds classified as low. Essentially, it affects only a specific frequency sound spectrum. Normally, we categorise the pitch of a sound in four categories, based on their frequency:

  • Low (20-200 Hz),
  • Medium-low (200-1000 Hz),
  • Medium-high (1000-5000 Hz)
  • High (5000-20000 Hz).

As the disorder develops, it becomes difficult to hear different pitches of sounds. For example, in the case of high-frequency hearing loss, people lose the ability to hear birds chirping and women's voices. In general, the more severe the hearing impairment, the more difficulty one has in hearing sounds closer to middle frequencies.

How common is low-frequency hearing loss?

According to World Health Organisation estimates, there are approximately 466 million people worldwide who suffer from some type of hearing loss. This number is said to double by 2050. Given the phenomenon of an ageing population that affects our country, this number has been steadily increasing since 2012, with a greater impact in the male population.

Causes of Low-Frequency Hearing Loss

Low frequency hearing loss may be due to a conductive or sensorineural hypoacusis. In the first case, the cause is a disfigurement or damage to the pinna, eardrum or ear bones, or an obstruction of the canal due to mucus or earwax. In the case of sensorineural hearing loss, there is damage to the hair cells within the cochlea or to the nerve pathways in the ear. This type of hearing loss is generally more severe and is caused by congenital diseases, acoustic trauma, infectious diseases or pathologies such as osteosclerosis and Manière's syndrome, and, more frequently, by presbycusis, the natural degeneration of auditory tissue due to ageing.

Common factors

In the examples mentioned above, low frequency hearing loss is not an exclusive symptom: there are often other disorders accompanying it that vary in severity, reversibility and time of onset. For example, if low frequency hearing loss is due to Wolfram syndrome (a rare endocrine disease related to diabetes mellitus), the hearing loss normally manifests itself within the first decade of life, is progressive and irreversible and anticipates the onset of the full-blown disease, which occurs in adulthood.

In the case of Ménière's Disease, which specifically affects the inner ear, hearing loss at low frequencies is a fluctuating symptom. This means it surfaces and disappears sporadically, but over time leads to a progressive deterioration of hearing ability. It is common, in cases of congenital disease, such as Mondini's dysplasia, which concerns a malformation of the inner ear, for hearing loss to occur early in life. In this case, the hearing loss is irreversible, whether it was severe from the start or whether it worsened over.

If the hearing loss is sudden, there is no typical age of onset, it is difficult to identify the exact cause. Hearing loss occurs within 24-72 hours of head trauma, severe stress or infection, among other causes. The chance of full recovery in this case is 25%.

Sensorineural low-frequency hearing loss

Generally speaking, cases of sensorineural hearing loss are the most severe, profound and irreversible, because they are caused by inner ear cell and tissue damage, particularly to the cochlea. It is precisely as a result of the work of the cochlea that our body translates vibrations into nerve signals for our brain. However, an early diagnosis can provide effective treatments for symptoms, including low-frequency hearing loss, and the diseases that cause them.

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Symptoms of low-frequency hearing loss

The symptoms of low-frequency hearing loss are not always easy to detect, particularly due to the fact that, in the mildest and most progressive forms, the person suffering from hearing loss can carry on conversations and sufficiently hear sounds in their surrounding environment. Here are some things to monitor if you suspect that you have problems hearing lower sounds.

Difficulties in following conversations

Following conversations attentively requires more effort than normal, especially if one is in a group and in environments where background noise is very present.

Unclear telephone conversations

Speaking on the telephone can be tricky as it can be very difficult to distinguish words, especially if there is background noise and even slight line disturbances. You may ask the person on the other end of the line to repeat himself many times.

Difficulty hearing low-frequency sounds

Male voices and deeper sounds are often garbled and may be difficult to distinguish and interpret.

Low frequency hearing loss & tinnitus

A symptom that may accompany low-frequency hearing loss is tinnitus, i.e. a whistling sound that is perceived even in the absence of sound. The onset of tinnitus is common in diseases such as Ménière's disease.

Hearing loss diagnosis

In order to diagnose low-frequency hearing loss, it is necessary to undergo a hearing test conducted by a professional. Tests during this early stage are used to establish the quality of sounds that the patient can perceive and can be trusted in the diagnosis of a hearing impairment. In that case, further checks are recommended to establish the root cause of the symptoms.

Amplifon free hearing test

With Amplifon, you can request a free hearing check-up, which is recommended as early as the age of 30 for an early diagnosis of possible hearing problems. You can start with the online hearing test for an initial, purely indicative check-up. Then, visit our site and fill in the form with your details to book a live examination at your nearest Amplifon centre. The audiometric test takes a few minutes and is simple, effective and non-invasive: it takes place in a soundproof room, you wear headphones from which you listen to raw sounds and you must raise your hand as soon as you start to perceive them.

Low frequency hearing loss treatment

Treating low-frequency hearing loss effectively requires a clear understanding of its causes. While conductive hearing loss is often curable with pharmacological treatment or surgery that, in many cases, resituates a person’s hearing ability almost completely, sensorineural hearing loss often requires pharmacological treatment, particularly during its acute phase. In the long term, the most effective treatment is the fitting of a specific hearing aid.

Amplifon hearing aids

The most modern Amplifon hearing aids use technology that is able to enhance the auditory perception of missing frequencies while also filtering out background noise and making sounds clearer. In the case of low-frequency hearing loss, a hearing aid treatment succeeds in ensuring a higher quality of life.

Schedule a free hearing consultation

A free consultation with an experienced hearing aid specialist is available at all Amplifon Centres, either with an established diagnosis of low frequency hearing loss or without. For many patients, a partial hearing loss means a total decrease in quality of life: an experienced hearing aid specialist will be able to recommend the right solution to effectively solve any specific hearing problems. Getting a consultation is free of charge, all you have to do is book an appointment.

Free trial for hearing aids

Hearing implants are for all intents and purposes a part of our body as their proper functioning makes us the people we are. For this reason it is important to find the right model. At Amplifon, hearing aids can be t ested free of charge for the first 14 days to give patients time to understand and find the hearing aid that is right for them.

When should i see a specialist?

Low-frequency hearing loss is less common than high-frequency hearing loss, which is why it is important to carefully monitor the symptoms, even if they do not seem to be anything to worry about. Nevertheless, it is best to rule out the possibility of an illness with the help of a specialist, especially if it becomes difficult to follow conversations in the presence of background noise. Hearing loss has various consequences and it is necessary to act promptly to try to solve the problem. 

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