Why Can I Hear Soft Sounds But Can’t Make Out Conversations?

Woman struggling to hear her husband while camping.

Cranking 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. The reason for this is hearing loss frequently occurs unevenly. Certain frequencies get lost while you can hear others perfectly fine.

Hearing Loss Comes in Numerous Types

  • 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 sense sound and send out chemical impulses to the auditory nerve, which passes them to the brain for translation. When these tiny hairs in your inner ear are damaged or destroyed, they don’t regenerate. This is why the normal aging process is frequently the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Things like exposure to loud noise, particular medications, and underlying health conditions can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
  • Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical issue in the ear. It could be because of too much buildup of earwax or due to an ear infection or a congenital structural issue. In many circumstances, hearing specialists can manage the underlying condition to enhance your hearing, and if required, recommend hearing aids to fill in for any remaining hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Symptoms

Requesting that people speak up when they talk to you will help some, but it won’t solve your hearing problems. Certain sounds, such as consonant sounds, can become hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss. Even though people around them are speaking clearly, somebody with this condition may believe 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. 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 hard to hear for people who have sensorineural hearing loss.

This is why simply 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 speaks.

How Can Hearing Aids Help?

Hearing Aids go inside your ears helping sound reach your auditory system more directly and eliminating some of the outside noise 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 hear speech by canceling some of the unwanted background noise.