I can hear but I can't understand

Have you had this experience or has a loved one or a friend mentioned that they can hear but not understand what others are saying to them? Most often, hearing loss affects the high frequency sounds a person hears. As a result, patients can have difficulty clearly understanding what other people are saying. Often patients can hear vowels just fine, but consonant sounds of F, S, T, and X are difficult to hear. Additionally, sounds like a woman's or child's voice, or a bird chirping are often lost. Losing hearing in those frequencies means that those sounds are softer and unclear.

Imagine removing all the high keys on a piano and asking someone to play a well-known melody. Even with only six or seven keys missing, the melody might be difficult to recognize. People with hearing loss experience a similar variation of the soundtrack of their lives every day.

Identifying hearing loss can be tricky

Because most cases of hearing loss develop gradually, it’s common for people affected to not recognize it. The sounds of chirping birds or rustling leaves disappear without them noticing. Only after it starts to affect speech recognition and communication do they become aware of the problem. With this delay, it’s important to treat hearing loss as soon as it is recognized.

When hearing loss is left uncorrected, it will begin to impact life in more substantial ways. Studies show that people with hearing loss are more likely to experience sadness, fear, depression and anxiety – all of which can cause them to withdraw from normal personal interaction.

Early intervention is important

The sooner steps are taken to manage hearing loss, the easier it will be to determine a solution. Our ability to hear is centered in the brain, and the longer it is deprived of certain sounds, the harder it will be to retrain the brain to hear these sounds later. Hearing aids can prevent or reduce the impact of this deterioration.

Receiving treatment can improve one’s quality of life dramatically. People who use hearing aids report these benefits: greater self-confidence, closer relationships with loved ones, and improved outlook on life.

Hearing Loss has been linked to:

  • Increased irritability and/or anger
  • Fatigue
  • Increased tension and stress
  • Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • Impaired memory
  • An inability to learn new tasks
  • Reduced job performance and earning power

How You Hear - Ear Anatomy

  • The outer ear catches sound waves and directs them into the ear canal.
  • The sound waves are amplified by the canal's funnel-like shape.
  • When the waves hit the eardrum they create vibrations, which in turn move the tiny ossicles bones (commonly referred to as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup).
  • The ossicles convey the vibrations through the middle ear to the "oval window" the membrane between the middle and inner ear.
  • The spiral-shaped inner ear is called the cochlea. It's lined with thousands of microscopic hair cells that convert the sound energy into electrical signals. These signals travel on nerve pathways to the brain where they are finally interpreted.

Most hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells in the inner ear bend or break. Physicians believe that prolonged exposure to loud noises and heredity are the main factors that contribute to hearing loss over time. Other causes of the damage can be related to: viral infections in the inner ear, medical treatments like chemotherapy and radiation, hear injury or age.