We know that hearing loss affects around 14 percent of the adult population in the U.S. – including 25 percent of people over the age of 55. Tack on another 14.9 percent for kids who have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the extent of this problem becomes clear. What do you think these individuals can’t hear, though?
Critical Facts About Hearing Loss
What each person hears varies depending on a number of factors such as why they have hearing loss. There are four defined classifications of hearing loss:
Conductive – The one you might associate aging, conductive hearing loss implies sounds cannot get through to the inner ear to be interpreted by the brain.
Sensorineural – Sensorineural means a damage or defect to the inner ear or hearing nerve. It might be due to a congenital disorder, disease or maybe trauma.
Mixed Hearing Loss – This refers to a combination of both conductive and sensorineural problems.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder – This is hearing loss that happens when the brain cannot interpret the sound due to damage to the inner ear.
Each type brings with it different symptoms. There are some common complaints between them, though: including the affected person may or may not hear. Consider five sounds a person with hearing loss might be missing.
Frequencies in the High Range
For some individuals, the hearing loss is limited to high frequencies – in other words, this person fails to interpret anything above 2,000 Hertz. This form of hearing loss makes it difficult to understand words. When this person watches TV or has a conversation, certain words will sound muttered or unclear for this person. The words affected contain the consonants S, H, and F, which usually fall between 1,500 to 6,000 Hertz.
Frequencies That are Low
At times, the loss occurs at the opposite end of the sound scale. The low-frequency hearing loss involves sensorineural damage and impacts sound produced at less than 2,000 Hertz. Usually, low-frequency hearing loss is a genetic or congenital defect such as cochlear malformation.
A person that has conductive hearing loss will hear most sounds if they are loud enough, but not at normal volumes. This is why amplifying the sound with hearing aids is a solution for them and why they are always turning up the TV or need headphones to hear their music. The ears work if the sound is loud enough to get through. When someone speaks in a normal voice, they may hear something but it sounds mumbled.
Conversation in a Noisy Room
Often times, it’s what you can hear that screws things up. People with a significant hearing challenge will experience something call recruitment noise. In other words, the background sounds overwhelm everything else. A sound like the air conditioner turning on masks all other noise.
This background noise is loud enough to cause physical distress, at times. The phenomenon occurs when an individual has both normal and damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The normal cells take over for damaged ones close by causing the sound to be excessively loud.
Speech of Any Kind
Profound hearing loss means a person hears no speech. Medical professionals use a classification system to measure hearing loss in decibels – a person with normal hearing measures anywhere from -10 to 15 dB HL (decibels of hearing loss) during a hearing test. To be diagnosed with profound hearing loss, the classification is 91 or more dB HL.
No two people hear or don’t hear the same thing regardless of their hearing challenges. It all depends on why your hearing is diminished and how severely.