Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always resolved by cranking the volume up. Here’s something to think about: Many people can’t hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often irregular. You often lose specific frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make voices sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It may be because of too much earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. 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 tiny 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 transmit chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. These fragile hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why the ordinary aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people talk louder will help to some degree, but it won’t fix your hearing problems. Specific sounds, like consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. This could cause someone with hearing loss to the incorrect idea that those around them are mumbling when actually, they’re speaking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and the majority of consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person speaking, a short “o”, for instance, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. 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 difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

This is why just speaking louder doesn’t always help. If you can’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person speaks.

How Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

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 can’t hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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