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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always resolved by cranking the volume up. Here’s something to think about: Many people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is frequently uneven. You tend to lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound garbled.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the delicate hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. These delicate hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why the natural aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health conditions, and take certain medications.
  • Conductive hearing loss is triggered by a mechanical problem in the ear. It might be a congenital structural problem or because of an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your underlying condition, in many circumstances, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, recommend hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it’s not going to comprehensively address your hearing loss challenges. Specific sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. This might lead somebody with hearing loss to the mistaken idea that people around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the frequency of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is calculated in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them more difficult for some people to hear. 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. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. It’s not going to help much when someone talks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How Can Using Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing aids come with a component that fits into the ear, so sounds get to your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to make out speech.

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