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Hearing Is Not The Same As Understanding: What You May Not Know About Hearing Loss

Sep 23, 2016 Hearing Is Not The Same As Understanding: What You May Not Know About Hearing Loss

Hearing conversations and being able to make out all the words can be two different things if you have high-frequency hearing loss. Learn more about high-frequency hearing loss, how it may be affecting you or a loved one − and what you can do about it.

When someone mentions hearing loss, the first thing that may come to mind is deafness. But high-frequency hearing loss is much more common, and often misunderstood. With this type of hearing loss, the main symptom isn’t necessarily not hearing what’s being said, but rather, not understanding what’s being said, particularly in situations where there is lots of noise around.

What is High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

High-frequency hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss associated with aging. As the name suggests, high-frequency hearing loss is a difficulty or inability to hear sounds at high frequencies, or high pitches, such as birds chirping or children’s voices. People with high-frequency hearing loss are able to clearly hear sounds below 1000 Hz. But sounds over 1000 Hz may start to get lost at normal volume, and need to be much louder to be heard.

Why You Can’t Understand Speech

This is a problem in speech because vowel sounds – A, E, I, O and U – are low in pitch, while consonants are high pitched. Being able to hear the vowels means you know someone is speaking, but if you can’t hear the consonants, you won’t be able to understand what they’re saying. Words like “cat” and “hat”, and “dime” and “time” become hard to differentiate with high-frequency hearing loss.

Background Noise Makes It Worse

With high-frequency hearing loss, speech can be difficult to understand even in quiet environments. But when you’re in a noisy restaurant, at a party, or even in a crowded shopping mall, understanding the conversation happening right beside you can become nearly impossible.

High-frequency hearing loss can make it hard to:

  • Follow conversations in both quiet and noisy places
  • Talk on the phone
  • Hear TV shows and movies, even at a higher volume
  • Understand the higher-pitched voices of children
  • Enjoy music, because without the high frequency sounds, the music will sound distorted

Not Understanding Speech Affects Your Whole Life

When you don’t understand the conversations happening around you, it’s not only hard on you− it’s also hard on your family, friends and co-workers. You may answer questions inappropriately, miss the punch line of jokes, or just find yourself smiling and nodding as the conversation goes on, without knowing exactly what people are talking about. People may think you’re not listening to them, that you have dementia, or suffer from low intelligence. This is how hearing loss takes a toll on your work, and on your relationships. It affects your life every day.

Hearing Aids Can Help

You don’t have to miss out on life because you have high-frequency hearing loss. Technology in hearing aids can amplify the high-frequency sounds around you, so they occur to you at the same volume as low-frequency sounds, giving you the most natural hearing experience possible. Not only will you be able to understand what people around you are saying, but you’ll likely rediscover sounds you didn’t know you were missing, like the soft chirping of birdsor the violins in your favorite piece of music.

If you find that you can’t quite understand what’s being said around you, visit an experienced audiologist for a hearing test. Don't let another important conversation pass you by.

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