"I can hear but I can't understand"

The first and most common complaint by people with hearing loss is “I can hear the sound of talking, but I can’t understand exactly what they’re saying.”

This complaint is common among individuals who are experiencing what’s called “sloping high frequency hearing loss.“

What causes this complaint and why is it so common?

Like other senses, hearing loss is not simply in our ears, but our ears and brain simultaneously. Sound waves are identified by our ears and our brain translates these sounds into words that we understand. While there are many varying degrees of hearing loss on many different frequencies, a very common progression of inner ear hearing loss is sloping high frequency hearing loss.

Hearing is commonly measured from 250 to 8000 Hz. People with “high frequency” hearing loss experience no loss of hearing below 1000 Hz (low pitched frequencies). However, these individuals experience abnormal results in the 1000-8000 Hz (high pitched frequencies) range. Furthermore, the most common variance of hearing loss continues to be “high frequency” hearing loss.

Examining the frequency of different speech signals

Different sounds are made by speech depending on the letters or words used. Vowels (a, e, i, o, u) produce lower pitched sounds and consonants (S,F , Th, Sh, Ch, K, P and H) produce higher pitched sounds. Hearing the vowel sounds in the lower frequency creates a sensation of actually hearing the speech. However, not being able to distinguish the consonants coming in at a higher pitched sound affects the comprehension of the words heard. (So we hear, but we don’t understand.)

The high-pitched frequencies where consonants occur is where the discrimination of different words happen. High frequency hearing loss causes the inability to hear consonant sounds efficiently; therefore losing the ability to tell the difference in certain words: i.e. the difference in “cat” and “hat”.


Important words and letters are heard unclearly

Visualize reading a book, but every S, F, Th, Sh, Ch, K, P and H are missing. It would only be possible to read and understand certain parts of the book. As a result, you wouldn’t understand many key words and phrases, making it very difficult to understand. This is a visual example of high frequency hearing loss. Only hearing a portion of a message disrupts the complete understanding. High frequency hearing loss “erases” key sounds or letters that are needed for comprehension.

Fortunately, a proper diagnosis and the appropriate amplification can significantly help high frequency hearing loss. Now, with the transcribe feature on our new Livio AI hearing aids, a conversation can be transcribed into text, ensuring you never miss a word or phrase again.

If you have the desire to hear more clearly and understand more, call 1-855-970-2990 or click here and we’ll connect you with a hearing professional nearby who will be happy to assist you.

By Starkey Canada