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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss issues aren’t always resolved by cranking the volume up. Here’s something to think about: Lots of people can’t understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often develops unevenly. You generally lose particular frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural problem or because of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In most circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more common. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for interpretation. These delicate hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often a result of the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and illnesses can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a bit better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively address your hearing loss problems. Individuals who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have trouble hearing specific sounds, like consonants in speech. Although people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition may think that everyone is mumbling.

The frequency 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 more difficult 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. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.

This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. 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 fit in your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside noise you would usually hear. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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