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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people are able to hear really soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more prevalent. When sound is perceived, it moves these hairs which send chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for interpretation. When these little hairs in your inner ear are damaged or killed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the ordinary 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.
  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical issue in the ear. It may be because of excessive buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In many cases, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Requesting that people talk louder will help to some extent, but it won’t solve your hearing issues. Specific sounds, including consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, somebody with this condition may believe that people are mumbling.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants often makes them difficult to make out. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is calculated 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 speaking, a short “o”, for instance, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. 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 just 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 Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

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 can’t hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you are able to hear in a balanced way. In this way, you attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to make out speech.

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