I Can Hear Conversations, But I Can’t Understand Them. Is This Hearing Loss?

For the millions of patients with varying degrees of hearing loss, it’s actually quite common to still have the ability to hear sounds. The problem lies in the ability to translate those sounds into meaningful words and phrases, which leads some patients to say “I can hear just fine, but I can’t understand.” For those patients, it may be difficult to understand words or high-pitched noises, especially in noisy environments that force your ears and brain to compete with the sounds around you. If this sounds like you, you may be suffering from hearing loss even if you can hear sounds at a normal level. Whether your hearing loss is mild or severe, there are options for help make understanding sounds easier for the hard of hearing community.

Why Can I Hear But Not Understand?

Hearing loss does not only involve the ears as some might expect. Thanks to your brain’s incredible ability to translate auditory information sent from your ears into meaningful sounds and words, your brain is an equal partner in the hearing process. Unfortunately, this creates more opportunities for hearing damage to affect how you understand sounds throughout this complicated process.

Hearing loss can vary in severity and it’s common to have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, especially in older patients. This makes understanding conversation difficult, as consonant sounds are high in pitch while vowel sounds are low in pitch. Without the ability to discern the subtle differences that consonants provide between vowels, it’s difficult to differentiate between similar-sounding words such as “bat” and “pat” or “house” and “blouse”. This can cause those with age-related hearing loss to not understand the sounds that are present even though they can adequately hear them.

Loud environments are not the only complication that those with hearing loss face. Though excessive volume does not make your brain’s job of understanding sounds any easier, high-pitched hearing loss can be difficult even in low volume environments if there are competing noises. A casual conversation at the next table over may be enough to make following a conversation next to impossible at your table.

If you have difficulty talking on the phone, following conversations, or feel exhausted after listening to conversations, you may have high-frequency hearing loss.

What Are My Options?

For those finding difficulty in understanding sounds even though they can hear them, there are options to help. Seeking the medical advice of an audiologist is the first step to evaluating the kind of hearing loss or disorder you may be suffering from. Auditory-processing disorders and even Attention Deficit Disorder can be a possibility in cases of hearing but not understanding. If high-frequency hearing loss is found, there are hearing aids specifically designed to amplify high-pitched sounds without affecting low-pitched sounds, giving you the right amount of assistance in the right place. With millions of people suffering from hearing loss worldwide, you do not need to accept your condition without help.


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