How Come I Only Have Difficulty Hearing in Crowds?

Patients commonly inquire precisely why hearing in crowds of people is especially hard for them. When they are talking to people one-on-one, or in small groups of people there is no problem, and they seem to hear just fine. 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. The same people that have difficulty with crowds, will often also express that they find it challenging to hear and distinguish certain consonants especially H, F, and S.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, there is a possibility that you may have suffered some form or high-frequency hearing loss. When describing human speech, audiologists define the 3000 to 8000 Hz range as high-frequency. This is the range that the F, S, and H sounds typically fall into. In a crowd, what you hear is a mixture of frequencies, with the high frequencies of human speech “competing” with lower-frequency sounds such as music or the noise of people walking or dancing. 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. High-frequency hearing loss is normal with aging, but is increasingly being diagnosed in younger adults too. Audiologists suspect this may come from repeated exposure to loud music especially through personal headphones. Other factors that can cause hearing loss include genetics, exposure to toxic drugs (including some chemotherapy agents), diabetes, and other diseases.

If you are having trouble hearing in crowds and the reason turns out to be high-frequency hearing loss you’ll be glad to know that this can be treated. Modern hearing aids can be tuned to amplify certain frequencies while suppressing others. This makes it possible to adjust a hearing aid specifically for high-frequency hearing loss and better hearing in crowds.

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.