Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by turning up the volume. Think about this: Many people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. Certain frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the ear. It might be a congenital structural problem or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In most cases, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, 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. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for translation. These delicate hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently caused by the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and illnesses can also lead to sensorineural 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. Specific sounds, including consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition might think that everyone is mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and many consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For example, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. Conversely, consonants such as “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.

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

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 typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you are unable to hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. In this way, you attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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