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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always resolved by turning the volume up. Consider 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 generally lose certain frequencies but have no problem hearing others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by problems with the delicate hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for interpretation. These little hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why the normal aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and underlying health conditions can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the ear. It could be a congenital structural issue or because of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In most cases, hearing specialists can treat the underlying condition to improve your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You may hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively address your hearing loss issues. Individuals who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have trouble hearing certain sounds, like consonants in speech. This might lead somebody who has hearing loss to the mistaken idea that people around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and the majority of consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Due to 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. If you can’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person talks.

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids have a component that fits into the ear, so sounds get to your auditory system without the interference you would typically 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 also make it easier to understand speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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