Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by turning up the volume. Think about this: Many people can’t hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Specific frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It might be a congenital structural issue or because of an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your underlying 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 loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the fragile hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs move when they sense sound and release chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. 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
Asking people to talk louder will help to some degree, but it won’t fix your hearing issues. Individuals who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty understanding certain sounds, including consonants in speech. Even though people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition may think that people are mumbling.
The pitch of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them more difficult for some people to hear. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for instance, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.
This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. 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 Using Hearing Aids Help With This?
Hearing Aids go inside your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the environmental noise you would normally hear. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you can 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.