Hearing loss issues aren’t always solved by turning up the volume. Here’s something to consider: Many people are capable of hearing really soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is frequently uneven. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the ear. It could be a result 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 improve your hearing, and if necessary, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
- Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the little hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is perceived, it moves these hairs which transmit chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they don’t regenerate. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by the natural process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and illnesses can also lead to 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 problems. Particular sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. This may lead somebody with hearing loss to the mistaken idea that people around them are mumbling when actually, they’re speaking clearly.
The frequency of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for somebody dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and many consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.
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 talks.
How do Hearing Aids Help?
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’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.