Turning up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss problems. Here’s something to think about: Many people are capable of hearing very soft sounds, but can’t hear conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. You tend to lose certain 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 fragile hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently a result of the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural issue or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. In many cases, hearing specialists can manage the underlying condition to improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms
You may hear a bit better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively manage your hearing loss problems. Certain sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, somebody with this condition may think that people are mumbling.
When somebody is dealing with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants typically makes them hard to make out. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured 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 talking. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.
This is why just speaking louder doesn’t always help. It’s not going to help much when someone speaks louder if you don’t understand some of the letters in a word like “shift”.
How Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?
Hearing aids have a component that fits into the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.