Woman can't hear the television while watching with friends.

If you can hear sounds and understand some words but not others, or you can’t distinguish between somebody’s voice and nearby noise, your hearing problem might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s capability of processing signals, or both.

Your ability to process sound is determined by a number of factors like overall health, age, brain function, and genetics. You could be dealing with one of the following types of hearing loss if you have the aggravating experience of hearing people speak but not being able to comprehend what they are saying.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When we tug on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with growing annoyance, “There’s something in my ear,” we could be suffering from conductive hearing loss. Issues with the middle and outer ear like fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or eardrum damage all decrease the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. Depending on the severity of issues going on in your ear, you could be able to make out some people, with louder voices, versus catching partial words from others speaking in normal or lower tones.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Where conductive hearing loss can be brought on by outer- and middle-ear issues, Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can stop sound signals to the brain. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can sound too muddy. If you cannot separate voices from background noise or have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices in particular, then you might be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss.

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