Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always resolved by turning the volume up. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people are capable of hearing very soft sounds, but can’t hear conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the little hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more common. When sound is perceived, it moves these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for translation. When these delicate hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they do not regenerate. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often 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 problems, and take certain medications.
  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical problem in the ear. It might be a result of too much buildup of earwax or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In most circumstances, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Asking people to speak up when they talk to you will help some, but it won’t fix your hearing issues. People with sensorineural hearing loss have trouble understanding certain sounds, including consonants in speech. Despite the fact that people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition may think that everyone is mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody dealing with 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. For instance, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

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

How Can Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids have a component that fits into the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. 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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