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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Think about this: Many people are capable of hearing really soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. That’s because hearing loss is frequently uneven. You generally lose particular frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make voices sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It could be a congenital structural issue or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your root condition, in many cases, can be managed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and caused by problems with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs move when they sense sound and release chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. When these little hairs in your inner ear are injured or killed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the natural aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to completely address your hearing loss issues. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty making out specific sounds, including consonants in speech. This may cause someone who has hearing loss to the mistaken idea that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they are talking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and the majority of 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. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty 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 hear some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person talks.

How Can Wearing 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 amplifying the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. 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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