Turning up the volume doesn’t always solve hearing loss problems. Here’s something to think about: Lots of people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. You tend to lose certain frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound garbled.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive hearing loss is triggered by a mechanical problem in the ear. It could be because of excessive earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. Your root condition, in many cases, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, recommend hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs move when they detect sound and release chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are injured or killed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why the ordinary aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss increases because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health conditions, and take certain medications.
Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
You might hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss issues. Specific sounds, like consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition may believe that everyone is mumbling.
When someone is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants typically makes them difficult to make out. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured 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. 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 difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.
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 speaks.
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 normally hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.