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 remedy hearing loss problems. Think about this: Many people are able to hear very soft sounds, but can’t make out conversations. The reason for this is hearing loss often occurs unevenly. Specific frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss happens when the ear has internal mechanical problems. It could be a congenital structural issue or due to an ear infection or excessive wax buildup. Your underlying condition, in many circumstances, can be addressed by your hearing specialist and they can, if necessary, advise hearing aids to help fill in any remaining hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss develops when the little hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are harmed, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs vibrate when they detect 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 damaged or destroyed, they do not regenerate. This is why the common aging process is often the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Over the course of our lives, sensorineural hearing loss develops because we expose ourselves to loud noise, have underlying health problems, and take certain medications.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You may hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it’s not going to comprehensively manage your hearing loss issues. People who cope with sensorineural hearing loss have trouble hearing certain sounds, like consonants in speech. Despite the fact that people around them are talking clearly, somebody with this condition might think that people are mumbling.

When someone is coping with hearing loss, the frequency of consonants typically makes them difficult to make out. 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 talking. Conversely, consonants like “f” and “s” register at 1,500 to 6,000 Hz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply speaking louder is not always helpful. 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 Wearing Hearing Aids Help With This?

Hearing Aids fit inside your ears helping sound reach your auditory system more directly and get rid of some of the outside sound you would normally hear. Hearing aids also help you by amplifying the frequencies you’re unable to hear and balancing that with the frequencies you can hear. In this way, you attain more clarity. Modern hearing aids also make it easier to understand speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.

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.