“I can hear, but I can’t understand what they’re saying”
You’re NOT alone! Millions of others struggle too…
Why Can’t I Understand Speech?
As part of the natural aging process of our human bodies and deterioration of our hearing due to many factors, including noise exposures, head traumas, and taking of ototoxic medications, we begin to loose hearing in various pitches (tones or frequencies). The hair cells inside our cochlea that capture those pitches have become limp and unresponsive, not allowing the stimulation of those sounds to reach our brains for translation.
The tones (hair cells) that humans normally loose first are the high frequency pitches – 1,000Hz and above, but most severally above 4,000Hz. The high frequencies of speech contain most of the consonant sounds, whereas the low frequencies contain the vowels.
Why Are Women & Children’s Voices Most Difficult to Understand?
Women and children’s voices are commonly more high pitched than men’s. So, often you may not struggle understanding men, but miss most of what the ladies and children in your life say. This often causes lots of problems, misunderstandings, contention and hurt feelings!
The Speech Banana
You can see above how the various speech sounds are shown at various pitches. This is also known as the “Speech Banana.”
As we loose hearing in the high pitches, sounds and speech become “dull” sounding, without crispness that comes from consonants sounds like “ssss”, “tttt”, “ssshhh”. Without the crisp tones of speech, conversations become much more difficult to understand.
Without consonant sounds, words can be heard, but understanding what is said is nearly impossible — especially without “lip reading”.
When we can’t understand, our bodies naturally empower other senses to make up the difference, such as our eyes focusing more on lips moving (lip reading), facial expressions, and body movement and gestures.
Without high pitch hearing, it is common for you to say: “I heard what she said, but I didn’t understand”.
The Good News
The good news is that with Hearing Central’s leading hearing aid technology, we are able to add amplification is just the pitches that you have lost. That way, sounds will become crisp again. Speech will be more understandable. Friends will enjoy visiting with you again. And family, especially the ladies in your life, will not have to raise their voices to help you hear them.
Stop dismissing your high frequency hearing loss, saying that everyone around you is mumbling or speaking too softly. The longer you put off better hearing and proper stimulation of your brain, the more difficult it becomes to improve your hearing and understanding.
Let me tell you about a story of a client of ours. His name was Peter and he was a former CIA agent. He was 90 years young when he came to us for help with his hearing. At his age, he was still very sharp mentally and rode his bike 10 miles a day. What a man! But, he was really struggling understanding what others said to him.
After testing his hearing, we found that he had a high frequency hearing loss [ear issue], but also had lost 50% of his word understanding (word discrimination) [brain issue]. Because he had waited so long to “fix his ears”, his brain had suffered from what is called “auditory deprivation”. It hadn’t been nourished with speech sounds for many years, all because of his self-imposed “vanity”. He thought hearing aids were for “old guys” and would be too noticeable. In all reality, his inability to understand people around him, especially his wife, was much more noticeable than any hearing aid every could be!
So, he decided to move forward with buying a hearing aid for both ears. I warned him that he needed to drop his expectations, because even though we were amplifying his hearing [fixing his ears], his brain’s speech understanding would need some rehab! Like any other muscle or skill, if we “don’t use it, we loose it” – in this case “auditory deprivation”.
Not unlike a hip surgery that replaces the hip, but still requires rehab of the surrounding muscles, hearing aids could replace the sounds he was missing, but his brain muscle needed help too. At first, he was frustrated. He said, “I now can hear people more loudly, but still can’t understand them”. I reminded him of his brain issue that caused him to only understand 50% of what he heard, so he patiently persisted.
The “rehab” I asked him to perform was pretty simple:
Read books, magazines and newspapers “out loud”, not just in his head
Listen to books-on-tape, talk radio or other clear speech sources
Have his wife read the newspaper to him, so he could relearn her voice
And, any other auditory stimulation that included speech
(By the way, those are what parents do to help their children learn language too – that’s how humans and other animals learn language.)
About one year later, now at 91 years young, I saw him for his annual hearing exam. His hearing had been corrected and his speech understanding had improved from 50% to 80%! It wasn’t 100%, but it was getting closer. Peter was happy with his progress and his wife was THRILLED! She told me that she finally had her husband back.
What a wonderful story, but NOT an uncommon one. There are millions of people around the world just like Peter, who struggle in silence. They are confused by why they can “hear” people, but can’t “understand” them. There are many who slip into seclusion, preferring to be alone, while separating themselves from their friends and family. Unfortunately, untreated hearing loss for many leads them down the path of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other mental and emotional diseases.
If you’re there, there is a way out! We have the answers and can help you. If you’re not, but feel you or a loved-one are headed that way…STOP, get help now. It’s not too late.
For over 14 years, HEARING CENTRAL has been helping thousands enjoy life’s moments through improved hearing with best-in-class digital hearing aids.
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