Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by cranking the volume up. Here’s something to think about: Lots of people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. You tend to lose certain frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • 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 send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are injured or killed, they do not regenerate. 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 bring about sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It may be because 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, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to completely address your hearing loss issues. Particular sounds, like consonant sounds, can become hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. This could cause somebody who has hearing loss to the incorrect idea that those around them are mumbling when actually, they are talking clearly.

The frequency of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for someone experiencing 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 talking. Conversely, consonants such as “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. It won’t help much when someone speaks louder if you don’t understand some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing Aids fit inside your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside sound you would usually hear. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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