Reverse-slope hearing loss, also known as low-frequency hearing loss, is relatively rare and for this reason there isn’t much general awareness about it. Often it can go undetected, and unless it’s present in the family of the patient, they may not be sure they have it at first, especially due to the unique way it affects your hearing. An audiologist is able to diagnose this type of hearing loss using an audiogram. In fact, this is how it gets its name. They will then be able to recommend an appropriate treatment that’s tailored to the needs of the patient.

What Is Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss?

Reverse-slope hearing loss is also referred to as low-frequency hearing loss because those who experience it find it challenging to hear low-pitched sounds. These may include the low rumbling of engines, deeper voices, thunder or basslines in music. This can also affect how they understand speech as when people speak they use a mix of high-pitch and low-pitch sounds. Vowels are often pronounced in a lower pitch than consonants, for instance. In the case of reverse-slope hearing loss, speaking louder may actually help, as it allows lower sounds to be heard.

The reason it is known as reverse-slope hearing loss is due to how it is measured on an audiogram. The graphical representations of this condition during a hearing test look like an upward slope, starting from the bottom left of the graph reaching up diagonally. This is the reverse of a ski-slope, which is typically the shape of the graph that represents high-frequency hearing loss. In this case, people aren’t able to hear higher-pitched sounds, which can be easier to detect.

What Are the Causes of Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss?

There are several causes. It can be genetic or related to a childhood illness. Often it is linked to other conditions, the most common being otosclerosis or Meniere’s disease. Otosclerosis is a condition where abnormal bone growth occurs in the inner ear. It is a common cause of hearing loss in young adults. Meniere’s disease is an autoimmune disorder which often results in hearing loss and other inner conditions such as tinnitus and loss of balance. Meniere’s disease can also lead to high-frequency hearing loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss?

The symptoms of reverse-slope are different to other types of hearing loss. Due to the fact that it’s more difficult to hear low-frequency sounds, people with this condition may find it easier to understand people with higher voices, such as children or women as opposed to a deeper man’s voice. It may also be more challenging to understand while speaking on the phone.

This is because the phone mainly delivers low and medium-frequency sounds. In-person conversation is usually better, unless the person is too far away. Certain sounds may also go undetected, so music may sound very tinny without a bass. The rumbling sound produced by cars, trucks and even airplanes may even go unnoticed.

How Can an Audiologist Help?

Firstly, if you are concerned about your hearing or that of a loved one, it’s always a good idea to visit an audiologist for a hearing test. They will be able to perform a detailed diagnostic and help you get to the root of the problem. It’s important that the right type of testing is used, such as an audiogram.

This will display the reverse-slope pattern that indicates the inability to hear low-pitched sounds. An audiologist will also be able to find out more by speaking to the patient about their hearing experiences on a day-to-day basis. They will perform other tests and evaluations to determine the cause of hearing loss, whichever type it may be.

As well as performing a thorough diagnosis an audiologist will also be able to recommend a suitable treatment according to the unique situation of the patient. Hearing aids are the most common and effective treatment for hearing loss. They can be custom-made and adjusted to suit the needs of your hearing loss. In the case of reverse-slope hearing loss they can be used to amplify lower-pitched sounds without over-amplifying high-pitched sounds. An audiologist will also be able to give you tips and techniques to help you get used to your hearing aid and ongoing support.

At Quality Hearing & Audiology Center, our friendly team is always available for help and advice about reverse-slope hearing loss and any other inner ear-related issues. If you would like to learn more about Quality Hearing & Audiology Center, call us today at 816-233-0022.