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Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss issues. Think about this: Many people can’t hear 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 perfectly fine.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also known as cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more typical. When sound is perceived, it vibrates these hairs which deliver chemical messages to the auditory nerve to be sent to the brain for translation. When these delicate hairs in your inner ear are damaged or killed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the normal aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss happens when the ear has internal mechanical issues. It could be a congenital structural issue or because of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In most cases, hearing specialists can treat the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to make up for any remaining hearing loss.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Requesting that people talk louder will help to some extent, but it won’t solve your hearing issues. Certain sounds, including consonant sounds, can be hard to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition might think that everyone is mumbling.

The pitch of consonant sounds make them hard 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 talking, a short “o”, for example, will register between 250 and 1,000 hertz. But consonants including “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. Due to damage to the inner ear, these higher pitches are difficult to hear for individuals who have sensorineural hearing loss.

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

Hearing aids come with a component that goes in the ear, so sounds reach your auditory system without the interference you would typically hear in your environment. Hearing aids also help you by boosting 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 block out background sound to make it easier to make out speech.

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