Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by turning the volume up. Here’s something to consider: Many people are able to hear really soft sounds, but can’t hear conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often irregular. Certain frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the little hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more typical. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. When these little hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they do not ever re-grow. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by the natural 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 use certain medications.
  • Conductive hearing loss happens when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It could be a result of excessive buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In most cases, hearing specialists can manage the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You might hear a bit better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to completely address your hearing loss problems. Specific sounds, like consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. This might cause somebody who has hearing loss to the mistaken idea that those around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.

When someone is dealing with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person speaking, 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 difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.

This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. 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 Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing aids have 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 can’t hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also block out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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