Hearing loss issues aren’t always solved by turning the volume up. Consider this: Lots of people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often develops unevenly. You often lose specific frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound muffled.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and caused by problems with the tiny hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. When these delicate hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. 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 conditions, and take certain medications.
- Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural problem or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. In most circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms
Asking people to speak up when they talk to you will help to some degree, but it won’t fix your hearing problems. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time understanding certain sounds, like consonants in speech. Although people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition might believe that everyone is mumbling.
The frequency of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and many consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for instance, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Individuals 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 hear some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person speaks.
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 typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.