Hearing Health Blog

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by cranking up the volume. Here’s something to consider: Many people can’t hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. You often lose particular frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical problem in the ear. It may be a result of excessive earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. Your underlying condition, in many cases, can be managed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, recommend hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more typical. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. These fragile hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently caused by the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people speak up when they talk to you will help some, but it won’t fix your hearing problems. Specific sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be hard to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. This may cause someone with hearing loss to the incorrect idea that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re talking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most 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. 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 difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. It won’t help much when someone talks 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 fit in your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the outside sound you would usually hear. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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