Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Here’s something to think about: Many people are unable to understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often develops unevenly. You tend to lose certain frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make speech sound muffled.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural issue 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 required, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs move when they sense sound and send out chemical impulses 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 regenerate. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently caused by the normal process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health issues, and take certain medications.
Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Requesting that people talk louder will help some, but it won’t solve your hearing problems. Certain sounds, like consonant sounds, can be hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition might believe that people are mumbling.
The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. 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. 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. People with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.
Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. It won’t 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 fits into the ear, so sounds get to your auditory system without the interference you would normally hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background noise to make it easier to understand speech.