I Can Hear, but I Can’t Understand. Do I Have Hearing Loss?

I Can Hear, but I Can’t Understand. Do I Have Hearing Loss?

In Blog, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss, Signs & Symptoms by Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Christa N. Smith, Au.D., CCC-A

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

“The TV must be broken. The volume is up high, but I still can’t understand what they’re saying.”

“I can hear just fine; I just can’t always understand what is being said.”

“It is easy to hear my husband speaking, but I can’t understand when my daughter or grandchildren are talking to me. They must be mumbling.”

Hearing loss is often complicated and presents in many different ways. One common complaint audiologists hear frequently is, “I can hear, but I can’t understand.” If this is the case, does this mean there is a hearing loss?

What is High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

High-frequency hearing loss is one of the most common types of hearing loss. A high-frequency (or high-pitch) hearing loss is an inability to hear sounds that occur in the higher end of frequencies. Sounds that commonly fall into this category include things such as the ping of a turn signal or birds chirping.

Individuals with high-frequency hearing loss can often hear low-frequency sounds normally, but often have to strain to understand a conversation. It can be hard to follow a speaker when you are unable to hear all of the sounds! For example, certain consonants, such as the “f” and “s” sounds are naturally spoken at a higher frequency, and are often harder for someone with high-frequency hearing loss to hear. This can be the difference between “Show it to me,” and “Throw it to me.” The difficulty in understanding speech is often made worse in a noisy environment or when talking on the phone.

Signs of High-Frequency Hearing Loss

Although hearing losses vary widely by degree and type, there are a few common signs of high-frequency hearing loss.

  • Understanding speech may be difficult, especially in noisy environments.
  • Higher-pitched sounds, such as a microwave or a doorbell, may be harder to hear.
  • Talking on the phone may be difficult.
  • Certain consonants (/f/k/s/h/) may be harder to understand.
  • It may be difficult to understanding what is being said on the TV, even when the volume is turned up.
  • Understanding female and young children’s voices may be harder, because they tend to be higher in pitch.
  • You may begin to feel exhausted simply from straining to listen.

What Causes High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

High-frequency hearing loss may be caused by factors such as age, genetics, medications, or disease. A high-frequency hearing loss is typically a sensorineural hearing loss. This means that it is normally caused by damage to the hair cells in a portion of the inner ear, called the cochlea. It is these hair cells that receive sounds and convert them into signals that the brain then can interpret and assign meaning.

High-frequency sounds are processed at the base of the cochlea, while low-frequency sounds are processed near the top. The hair cells at the base of the cochlea are more vulnerable to damage than those closer to the top, which is why hearing loss often effects the high frequency sounds before low frequencies.

What Can I Do About High-Frequency Hearing Loss?

Living with high-frequency hearing loss can be especially frustrating because you can hear, but you can’t always understand. It is this complex nature of hearing loss that leads many people to put off seeing an audiologist. Although high-frequency hearing loss is usually irreversible, many people find that hearing aids work very well for this type of hearing loss.

A thorough hearing test with an audiologist at Whisper Hearing Centers will help determine the best treatment option for you. If your audiologist recommends hearing aids, we will help you choose the style that will help you the most, all while taking your lifestyle, budget, and preferences into account.

At Whisper Hearing Centers, you get a team of professional that is completely dedicated to your hearing health. They are highly-trained and experienced in the evaluation, diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.