Why You Can’t Make Out Conversation, But You Can Hear Soft Sounds

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always resolved by cranking the volume up. Consider this: Many people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. Certain frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical problem in the ear. It might be a result of excessive buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In most cases, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs vibrate when they sense sound and send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are injured or killed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the natural aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, specific medications, and underlying health conditions can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss issues. Particular sounds, including consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. This could lead someone with hearing loss to the mistaken idea that people around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.

The frequency of consonant sounds make them difficult to hear for someone experiencing hearing loss. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. 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. Because of damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

Because of this, simply talking 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 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 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. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to make out speech.

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 hearing aid consultation, call today to schedule an appointment.