Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Turning up the volume doesn’t always remedy hearing loss problems. Here’s something to consider: Lots of people are capable of hearing very soft sounds, but can’t understand conversations. That’s because hearing loss is often uneven. Specific frequencies are muted while you can hear others without any problem.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • Conductive hearing loss is triggered by a mechanical issue in the ear. It might be a congenital structural problem or a result of an ear infection or excessive wax accumulation. In most cases, 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 develops when the tiny hairs in the inner ear, also called cilia, are damaged, and this condition is more prevalent. These hairs vibrate when they sense sound and send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which transmits them to the brain for translation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are damaged or killed, they don’t ever re-grow. This is why the natural aging process is frequently 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 issues, and use certain medications.

Symptoms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss

You might hear a little better if people talk louder to you, but it isn’t going to comprehensively deal with your hearing loss problems. Particular sounds, including consonant sounds, can become difficult to hear for people who suffer from sensorineural hearing loss. Despite the fact that people around them are speaking clearly, somebody with this condition may think that people are mumbling.

When somebody is coping with hearing loss, the frequency of consonants often makes them hard to distinguish. Pitch is measured in hertz (Hz), and most 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. But consonants like “f” or “s” will be anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000 hertz. People with sensorineural hearing loss have difficulty processing these higher-pitched sounds because of the damage to their inner ears.

Because of this, simply talking louder is not always helpful. 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 Wearing 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 normally 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 also make it easier to hear speech by blocking some of the unwanted background noise.

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