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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss issues. Think about 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 occurs unevenly. You often lose certain frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make voices sound garbled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss happens when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It might be because of excessive earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the fragile hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for interpretation. These little hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it’s not going to comprehensively manage your hearing loss issues. Particular sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. This may cause somebody with hearing loss to the mistaken idea that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they are speaking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult 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 including “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 because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. It’s not going to help much when someone speaks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids come with a component that goes in the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would normally hear in your environment. 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 attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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