Can the High-Pass Filter damage your hearing?

Hey All,

I know this must be a stupid question for people who actually know the basics of audio editing, but I was really wondering - I read this post and am looking to do something similar, but hopefully much safer…

Basically, what I’m doing is:
(1) Running a high-pass filter at +/- 14kHz on my vocal track twice
(This leaves the vocals virtually inaudible)
(2) raising the gain of that track to 9-12 dB

This leaves me with the track very barely audible and it ends up becoming almost completely hidden behind my background music - Exactly the effect I’m aiming for, but my question is whether the 2 high-pass filters followed by rasing the gain as I do could damage the listener’s hearing as was mentioned in the previous posting.

Thanks for your feedback!

Generally no. I think audiometers for safety considerations use the “A Weight” which is far from flat and drops off at both ends.

Note that the A curve is already 3dB down at 8 KHz.

However, high power at high frequencies can have psychological effects. You can drive somebody nuts with a focussed beam of hot ultrasonic sound. They will become very uncomfortable and their ears will feel warm and they can’t figure out why. Some people start crying. You try that with a young woman and they will turn around and look at you. Then the jig is up.

It’s the same problem with laser light. The iris in your eye closing down to protect itself has no affect on laser light.

Then there’s the burning tweeter in your speakers, the funny smell and smoke and more basic effects like that. “100 watt speakers” only send a really tiny portion of that power to the tweeter. If you pile it all in there, you’ll cause considerable physical damage.


The chances of damaging your hearing is probably much greater if you are using headphones than if you are using normal domestic loudspeakers. Loudspeakers will often roll off extreme frequencies at both the high and low ends, and as Koz has said, the tweeters will suddenly stop working (permanently) if you try and push too much through. Headphones on the other hand are often pretty good at producing high frequencies and are often capable of producing sounds at dangerous levels. You should always take care when using headphones to not have the volume up too high - the longer the exposure to loud noise, the more damage to your hearing.

I’m not sure that exposure to frequencies above the hearing threshold will actually damage your hearing (if your inner ear parts are not vibrating because the frequency is too high, then I don’ see how the vibration can damage them), but it is certainly not worth taking the risk.

High frequencies at the threshold of hearing can certainly cause undesirable effects, such as ringing in the ears, headaches, toothache, migraine…

If you use loudspeakers, and the volume is set to a comfortable level, then high pass filtering the sounds is unlikely to cause hearing damage, but boost the treble to hard and there is a good chance of frying the tweeters.