Cranking up the volume doesn’t always solve hearing loss issues. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people can’t understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss frequently occurs unevenly. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs vibrate when they detect sound and send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. These delicate hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why the natural aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
- Conductive hearing loss happens when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It may be because of too much buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can treat the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms
Requesting that people talk louder will help to some degree, but it won’t solve your hearing problems. Particular sounds, like consonant sounds, can become hard to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. This might lead somebody who has hearing loss to the mistaken idea that those around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.
The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for someone experiencing hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and many 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 speaking. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.
Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. It’s not going to help much when someone speaks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.
How do Hearing Aids Help?
Hearing aids come with 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 are unable to 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 can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.