Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Here’s something to consider: Many people are unable to understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. You generally lose specific frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make speech sound garbled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the little hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more typical. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. These tiny hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by the normal process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health problems, and use certain medications.
  • Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It might be a congenital structural issue or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your underlying condition, in many circumstances, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Requesting that people speak up when they talk to you will help to some extent, but it won’t solve your hearing issues. Particular sounds, like consonant sounds, can become hard to hear for individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. This might cause someone who has hearing loss to the mistaken conclusion that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re speaking clearly.

When someone is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants often makes them difficult to make out. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For instance, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.

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

How Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing Aids go in your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside sound you would typically hear. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to understand speech.

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