If I can hear, just not clear, does that mean I have hearing loss? There are varying degrees of hearing loss; mild, moderate or high-frequency sensorineural hearing losses tend to occur more frequently than severe or profound hearing loss. Some sensorineural hearing losses develop gradually over time, so people may not notice they have any hearing difficulties for some time. People with high frequency or mild hearing loss tend to have trouble with word understanding, especially when there is any background noise. It will require much more effort for them to follow or understand conversations in a loud restaurant, in crowds, or at a party.

People with high-frequency hearing loss often experience difficulty understanding conversations. Consonant sounds tend to be of higher frequencies where vowel sounds tend to be in the lower frequency range. Vowel sounds are useful in helping to provide the lower frequency volume of speech, where consonant sounds are used to help us discriminate words. Consonant sounds also help to separate words and syllables, provide the majority of the word information and are more crucial to speech intelligibility than vowel sounds. However, it is important to be able to hear both high and low-frequency sounds, as no one speech sound can be pinpointed to a specific spot on the audiogram. Speech energy tends to be spread along different parts of the frequency spectrum.

People with high-frequency hearing loss also tend to be among those who most frequently report that they “are able to hear, I just don’t hear clearly”, or that they know people are talking, but not everything is clear. They will also rely on contextual clues, visual cues or speech reading to help fill in any auditory information that they may be missing.

For some people, they may find they have the most difficulty understanding and following conversations, especially in the presence of background noise. There are some that may find hearing on the phone or understand the television is when they have the most difficulty hearing. Hearing on the phone can be difficult since there are no visual cues available to help “fill in the gaps” of missing auditory information, and you are often only hearing from one ear unless speakerphone is utilized.

The best way to determine if you have a hearing loss is to have a hearing test with an audiologist. Even people with the same audiogram “hear” and perform differently. For this reason, patients are encouraged to meet for a consultation with an audiologist to discuss both the results of the hearing test, as well as factors such as hearing loss, lifestyle needs and budget when selecting a hearing aid.

Through the use of a hearing aid programmed to the person’s specific hearing loss, sounds that they may have been having difficulty hearing can become more audible and listening will require less effort. If you or anyone you know has any difficulties hearing and has not had a recent hearing test, it is recommended that you make an appointment with an audiologist for a complete audiological evaluation.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for a complete audiological evaluation, please call one of our locations!