McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss issues. Consider this: Many people can’t understand conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Certain frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the ear. It might be because of too much buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural problem. In many cases, hearing specialists can treat the root condition to enhance your hearing, and if necessary, 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 prevalent. When sound is sensed, it moves these hairs which transmit chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for translation. These tiny hairs do not heal when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently caused by 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 take certain medications.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You may hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss challenges. People who have sensorineural hearing loss have trouble understanding certain sounds, like consonants in speech. This may cause somebody with hearing loss to the incorrect idea that those around them are mumbling when actually, they’re talking clearly.

When somebody is dealing with hearing loss, the pitch of consonants typically makes them difficult to distinguish. 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. Depending on the voice of the person talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. 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 because of the damage to their inner ears.

This is why just speaking louder doesn’t always help. 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 speaks.

How Can Using Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing aids have a component that goes in 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 can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. In this way, you get more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background sound to make it easier to understand speech.

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