Hearing Health Blog

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss issues. Think about this: Lots of people can’t hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often develops unevenly. Certain frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It may be a result of too much earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In most circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which transmit chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for interpretation. When these little hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the normal aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and illnesses can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively address your hearing loss issues. People who have sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty hearing certain sounds, like consonants in speech. This could cause someone with hearing loss to the mistaken idea that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re speaking clearly.

The frequency of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For instance, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person talking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Due to damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. 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 Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing aids come with a component that fits into the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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