Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss issues aren’t always resolved by cranking up the volume. Think about this: Lots of people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. You often lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs move when they sense sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. These tiny hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently a result of the normal process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health conditions, and use certain medications.
  • Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It might be because of too much earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. 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.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people talk louder will help some, but it won’t fix your hearing problems. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time making out specific sounds, like consonants in speech. This could cause someone who has hearing loss to the mistaken conclusion that those around them are mumbling when actually, they are talking clearly.

When someone is dealing with hearing loss, the frequency 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 more difficult for some people to hear. Depending on the voice of the person speaking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. If you can’t understand 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 fit in your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the outside noise you would normally hear. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. In this way, you attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to understand speech.

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