Hearing and understanding are two sides of the same coin. It’s quite possible to hear everything someone says but at the same time understand nothing they said. For example, listen to someone speaking in a foreign language. If I were to ask you if you could hear him or her you would say yes. If I asked you if you were able to understand what they were saying the answer would probably be no.
Having a hearing loss can be a little bit like listening to someone speaking in a language you don’t speak, you feel like you’re able to hear what’s being said, you just can’t understand what’s being said. And if there are a lot of people talking or a lot of competing noise you may be in a situation where you aren’t able to understand anything at all.
SO WHY CAN I HEAR BUT NOT UNDERSTAND?
For the majority of individuals with a hearing loss, two things are happening, often at the same time.
Problem number one…it’s unusual to lose the ability to hear equally across all frequencies (pitches). Typically the higher frequencies are lost first. The higher frequencies are where many consonant sounds can be found. In all likelihood what you might be able to hear at a normal level or close to a normal level are a lot of vowel sounds and lower frequency consonant sounds (for example m, b, p). What you’re not able to hear are the higher pitched consonant sounds (for example s, t, c, f, th, sh). In other words depending on your hearing loss, you’re hearing far less than 100% of every word. Some times you can figure out enough words in a sentence to understand what’s being said and sometimes you can’t.
The second problem you may face is a less than ideal signal to noise ratio. The signal to noise ratio is essentially the level or volume of what you want to hear compared to the level or volume of what you don’t want to hear. As the noise level increases, the signal to noise ratio becomes poorer and the sounds you were barely able to hear before are becoming much more difficult to hear. The percentage of every word you hear is declining and as it declines so does your ability to figure out or to understand what someone is saying.
The good news is that for most people with the problem of hearing but not understanding we have a solution. Call us today.