If you can hear sounds and make out some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between somebody’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing problem might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s capability of processing signals, or both.
Brain function, age, overall health, and the physical makeup of your ear all contribute to your ability to process sound. If you have the frustrating experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you might be dealing with one or more of the following types of hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When we tug on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with growing aggravation, “something’s in my ear,” we could be experiencing conductive hearing loss. Issues with the middle and outer ear like fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or damage to your eardrum all decrease the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. Depending on the seriousness of issues going on in your ear, you might be able to make out some people, with louder voices, versus catching partial words from others speaking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Unlike conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve as well can block sound signals to the brain. Voices may sound slurred or muddy to you, and sounds can come across as either too high or too low. If you cannot separate voices from background noise or have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices particularly, then you might be suffering from high-frequency hearing loss.