Why Can I Hear Soft Sounds But Can’t Understand Conversations?

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Hearing loss issues aren’t always resolved by turning the volume up. Here’s something to think about: 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.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive hearing loss is a result of a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be a congenital structural issue or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the root condition to improve your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the little hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more typical. These hairs move when they detect sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. These tiny hairs do not regenerate when damaged or destroyed. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is frequently a result of the normal process of aging. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health conditions, and take certain medications.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Asking people to speak up when they talk to you will help some, but it won’t fix your hearing problems. Particular sounds, such as consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Although people around them are talking clearly, someone with this condition may think that people are mumbling.

When someone is dealing with hearing loss, the frequency of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and the majority of consonants register in our ears at a higher pitch than other sounds. For example, a short “o” registers at 250 to 1,000 Hz, depending on the voice of the person speaking. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to the damage to their inner ears.

This is why simply speaking louder doesn’t always help. 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 Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing Aids go inside your ears helping sound get into your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the outside sound you would normally hear. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you can’t hear and balancing that with the frequencies you are able to hear. In this way, you attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids can also cancel out background noise to make it easier to understand speech.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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