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

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always resolve hearing loss issues. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people are unable to hear conversations even though they are able to hear soft sounds. That’s because hearing loss is frequently uneven. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss develops when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It might be a congenital structural problem or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your root condition, in many cases, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing impairment.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is more prevalent and caused by issues with the delicate hairs, or cilia, in the inner ear. These hairs move when they sense sound and send out chemical messages to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for interpretation. When these fragile hairs in your inner ear are injured or destroyed, they do not regenerate. This is why sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by the normal process of aging. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and illnesses can also bring about sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

You might hear a little better if people speak louder to you, but it’s not going to completely manage your hearing loss issues. Specific sounds, like consonant sounds, can be difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss. Although people around them are speaking clearly, someone with this condition may believe that everyone is mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard to hear for somebody dealing with hearing loss. The frequency of sound, or pitch, is measured in hertz (hz) and the higher pitch of consonants is what makes them harder for some people to hear. 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. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds due to 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 do Hearing Aids Help?

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. Also, the frequencies you can’t hear are boosted and mixed with the sounds you can hear in a balanced way. In this way, you get 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. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.