Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

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

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and caused by problems with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often a result of the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical problem in the ear. It could be a congenital structural problem or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. In many cases, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You might hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss problems. Specific sounds, such as consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition might believe that people are mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and the majority of consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For example, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. 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’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 inside your ears helping sound reach your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside noise you would normally hear. 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 can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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