If you can hear voices and understand some words but not others, or you can’t distinguish between somebody’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing issue may be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s capability of processing signals, or both.
Your ability to process sound is influenced by a number of variables such as general health, age, brain function, and genetics. You may be dealing with one of the following kinds of hearing loss if you have the annoying experience of hearing people talk but not being able to understand what they are saying.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When we tug on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say over and over to ourselves with growing annoyance, “something’s in my ear,” we could be experiencing conductive hearing loss. Problems with the middle and outer ear such as 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 understand some individuals, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others talking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Unlike conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Injury to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can stop sound signals from going to the brain. Voices might sound slurred or muddy to you, and sounds can come across as either too high or too low. If you can’t differentiate voices from background noise or have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices in particular, then you may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss.