Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss issues. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people can’t understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss frequently occurs unevenly. You generally lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound muffled.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more prevalent. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for translation. These fragile hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why the normal aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. 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 happens when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It could be a congenital structural issue or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your root condition, in many cases, can be managed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You may hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to completely deal with your hearing loss problems. Individuals who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty understanding certain sounds, like consonants in speech. Although people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition might think that everyone is mumbling.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants typically makes them difficult to distinguish. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them harder for some people to hear. For example, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person talking. Conversely, consonants such as “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Individuals 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 speaking louder is not always helpful. 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 talks.

How Can Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids have a component that goes in the ear, so sounds get to your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you are unable to 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 cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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