Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss issues aren’t always solved by turning up the volume. Think about this: Lots of people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is frequently uneven. You often lose particular frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make speech sound garbled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It might be because of excessive buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In many cases, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for 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 move when they detect sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for translation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they do not regenerate. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually a result of the normal process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss increases because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health issues, and take certain medications.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss problems. Certain sounds, including consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition might think that people are mumbling.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants typically makes them difficult to make out. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For instance, 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 difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. It won’t help much when someone talks 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 get to your auditory system without the interference you would normally hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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