Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Here’s something to think about: Lots of people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. You often lose particular frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound garbled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the tiny hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs vibrate when they sense sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. These tiny hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical problem in the ear. It could be a congenital structural issue or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. In most cases, hearing specialists can manage the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Requesting that people speak up when they talk to you will help to some extent, but it won’t fix your hearing issues. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty hearing certain sounds, including consonants in speech. This may lead somebody who has hearing loss to the mistaken conclusion that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re speaking clearly.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the frequency of consonants typically makes them hard to make out. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them more difficult for some people to hear. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for instance, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. Conversely, consonants such as “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. It’s not going to help much when someone talks louder if you don’t understand some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How Can Using Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing Aids go inside your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the environmental noise you would typically hear. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to make out speech.

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