If you can hear voices and understand some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between a person’s voice and nearby noise, your hearing issue might be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s capability of processing signals, or both.
Brain function, age, overall health, and the physical makeup of your ear all contribute to your ability to process sound. If you have the aggravating experience of hearing a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you could be experiencing one or more of the following types of loss of hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When we tug on our ears, continuously swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with growing annoyance, “There’s something in my ear,” we may be suffering from conductive hearing loss. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is decreased by issues to the middle and outer ear such as wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and fluid buildup. Depending on the seriousness of issues going on in your ear, you may be able to understand some people, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others speaking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
In contrast to conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can stop sound signals to the brain. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can come across too muddy. If you can’t distinguish voices from background noise or have difficulty hearing women and children’s voices in particular, then you may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss.