If you can hear sounds and understand some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between someone’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing problem may be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s ability to process signals, or both.
Your ability to process sound is determined by several factors like general health, age, brain function, and genetics. If you have the frustrating experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not being able to process or understand what that person is saying you might be experiencing one or more of the following kinds of loss of hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
When we tug on our ears, continuously swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with increasing aggravation, “something’s in my ear,” we may be suffering from conductive hearing loss. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is decreased by problems to the middle and outer ear like wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and fluid buildup. You may still be capable of hearing some people with louder voices while only partially hearing people with lower voices depending on the severity of your hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
In contrast to conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the inner ear. Injury to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can block sound signals to the brain. Voices might sound slurred or unclean to you, and sounds can come across as either too high or too low. If you can’t separate voices from background noise or have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices particularly, then you might be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss.