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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss issues. Think about this: Lots of people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t hear conversations. That’s because hearing loss is frequently irregular. You tend to lose particular frequencies but are able to hear others, and that can make speech sound muffled.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It may be because of excessive buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. Your root condition, in many cases, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if needed, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more common. These hairs move when they detect sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. These little hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why the natural aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. 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.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a bit better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss issues. Certain sounds, like consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. Although people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition might believe that people are mumbling.

When someone is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person speaking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. If you can’t understand some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person talks.

How Can Using Hearing Aids Help With This?

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. Hearing aids also help you by boosting the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC