Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss issues. Consider this: Lots of people are able to hear really soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often irregular. You tend to lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It might be a congenital structural problem or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. 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 is more prevalent and caused by problems with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. These fragile hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually a result of the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You may hear a bit better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to completely manage your hearing loss challenges. Specific sounds, like consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are speaking clearly, somebody with this condition might think that people are mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is calculated in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them harder for some people to hear. For instance, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. People 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 understand 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 go inside your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the environmental noise you would typically hear. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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