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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss issues. Think about this: Lots of people can’t hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often irregular. Certain frequencies get lost while you can hear others without any problem.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a result of too much buildup of earwax or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can treat the underlying 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 issues with the tiny hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the natural aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss increases because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health conditions, and use certain medications.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may hear a bit better if people speak louder to you, but it’s not going to completely manage your hearing loss issues. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a difficult time making out certain sounds, including consonants in speech. This may cause someone with hearing loss to the incorrect idea that those around them are mumbling when in fact, they’re speaking clearly.

The frequency of consonant sounds make them hard 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. For example, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time 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 understand some of the letters in a word like “shift,” it won’t make much difference how loudly the other person talks.

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. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. This makes what you hear a lot more clear. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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