If you can hear voices and understand some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between a person’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing problem could be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.
Brain function, age, overall health, and the genetic makeup of your ear all contribute to your ability to process sound. If you have the frustrating experience of hearing a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you may be experiencing one or more of the following types of hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
You may be experiencing conductive hearing loss if you have to repeatedly swallow and tug on your ears while saying with growing irritation “There’s something in my ear”. Issues with the outer and middle ear like fluid in the ear, earwax buildup, ear infections, or eardrum damage all diminish the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. You might still be capable of hearing some people with louder voices while only partly hearing people with lower voices depending on the severity of your hearing loss.
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 sound as either too low or too high. You’re suffering with high frequency hearing loss, if you have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices or cannot distinguish voices from the background noise.