Why You Can’t Understand Conversation, But You Can Hear Soft Sounds

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss problems. Consider this: Many people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. That’s because hearing loss is frequently irregular. Certain frequencies get lost 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 harmed, and this condition is more typical. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which deliver 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 killed, 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, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is triggered by a mechanical problem in the ear. It may be a result of excessive earwax buildup or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. Your underlying condition, in many circumstances, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Asking people to speak up when they talk to you will help to some degree, but it won’t fix your hearing issues. Specific sounds, including consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition might believe that people are mumbling.

The frequency of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for someone dealing with hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For instance, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. 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 talking louder is not always helpful. It won’t help much when someone talks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How Can Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing Aids go inside your ears helping sound reach your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the environmental sound 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. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to hear speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.