If you can hear sounds and understand some words but not others, or you can’t distinguish between someone’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing issue might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.
Your ability to process sound is influenced by a number of factors such as general health, age, brain function, and genetics. You might be dealing with one of the following types of hearing loss if you have the frustrating experience of hearing people speak but not being able to comprehend what they are saying.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When we tug on our ears, continuously swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with growing irritation, “something’s in my ear,” we might be experiencing conductive hearing loss. Problems with the middle and outer ear like fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or damage to your eardrum all decrease the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. Depending on the severity of issues going on in your ear, you might be able to make out some people, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others speaking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Where conductive hearing loss can be induced by outer- and middle-ear problems, Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve as well can block sound signals to the brain. Voices might sound slurred or muddy to you, and sounds can come across as either too low or too high. If you cannot differentiate voices from background noise or have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices in particular, then you may be suffering from high-frequency hearing loss.