Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss problems aren’t always solved by cranking up the volume. Consider this: Lots of people are capable of hearing really soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. Certain frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more prevalent. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which transmit chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be passed to the brain for interpretation. When these delicate hairs in your inner ear are injured or killed, they do not ever re-grow. This is why the natural aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and illnesses can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It might be a result of excessive buildup of earwax or caused by an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to improve your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people talk louder will help to some degree, but it won’t solve your hearing problems. Specific sounds, including consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. Although people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition might believe that people are mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for somebody experiencing hearing loss. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is calculated in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them harder for some people to hear. Depending on the voice of the person speaking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have a hard time processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

This is why just speaking louder doesn’t always help. It’s not going to help much when someone talks louder if you don’t hear some of the letters in a word like “shift”.

How do Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing aids come with a component that goes in the ear, so sounds get to your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are amplified and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. This makes what you hear much more clear. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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