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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always solve hearing loss problems. Here’s something to consider: Many people are able to hear really soft sounds, but can’t hear conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss frequently occurs unevenly. Certain frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss occurs when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It may be a result of excessive 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 develops when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more typical. These hairs move when they sense sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. When these little hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often a result of the natural process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss increases because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health issues, and use certain medications.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to completely deal with your hearing loss issues. People who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty making out certain sounds, including consonants in speech. This might cause somebody who has hearing loss to the incorrect idea that people around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re talking clearly.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. 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 talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Due to damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss.

This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. It won’t help much when someone speaks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How Can Using Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing aids come with a component that fits into the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would normally 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 attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also block out background noise to make it easier to make out speech.

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