Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always solve hearing loss problems. Consider this: Lots of people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss frequently develops unevenly. You often lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound garbled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical issue in the ear. It might be a congenital structural issue or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. Your underlying condition, in many cases, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more typical. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for interpretation. These fragile hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently a result of the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You may hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to completely deal with your hearing loss problems. Individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time understanding certain sounds, like consonants in speech. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition might believe that everyone is mumbling.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and many 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 talking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Due to damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss.

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

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids have a component that goes in the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would normally hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids can also block out background sound to make it easier to make out speech.

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