Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always solve hearing loss issues. Consider this: Lots of people are capable of hearing really soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Specific frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss is triggered by a mechanical issue in the ear. It may be a result of excessive earwax buildup or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more common and caused by problems with the fragile hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. These tiny hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is usually a result of the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people talk louder will help to some extent, but it won’t solve your hearing issues. Specific sounds, such as consonant sounds, can become hard to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. This might cause somebody with hearing loss to the incorrect idea that people around them are mumbling when in fact, they are talking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody dealing with hearing loss. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is calculated in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them harder for some people to hear. 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. Due to damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss.

Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. 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 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 boosted 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 also make it easier to understand speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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