Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss issues aren’t always resolved by turning the volume up. Consider this: Lots of people are capable of hearing very soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often irregular. You tend to lose certain frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by problems with the delicate hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs vibrate when they sense sound and release chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often a result of the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural problem or due to an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. Your root condition, in many cases, can be managed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You might hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to completely manage your hearing loss issues. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time hearing specific sounds, including consonants in speech. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition might think that people are mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult 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. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

This is why just speaking louder doesn’t always help. It’s not going to help much when someone talks louder if you don’t understand some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing Aids fit in your ears helping sound reach your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside noise you would usually hear. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to make out speech.

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