Hearing loss issues aren’t always resolved by cranking the volume up. Here’s something to think about: Many people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. You generally lose particular frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound garbled.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by problems with the fragile hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it vibrates these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for translation. These little hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently a result of the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain 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 might be because of too much buildup of earwax or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. Your underlying condition, in many cases, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, recommend hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms
You may hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to completely deal with your hearing loss problems. Particular sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition might think that everyone is mumbling.
The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody 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. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.
Because of this, simply talking 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 speaks.
How Can Hearing Aids Help?
Hearing aids come with a component that goes in the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would normally hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background noise to make it easier to understand speech.