If you can hear sounds and make out some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between somebody’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, general health, and the genetic makeup of your ear all contribute to your ability to process sound. If you have the annoying experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not being able to process or understand what that person is saying you could be dealing with one or more of the following kinds of loss of hearing.
Conductive Hearing Loss
You may be suffering from conductive hearing loss if you have to repeatedly swallow and yank on your ears while saying with increasing annoyance “There’s something in my ear”. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is diminished by problems to the middle and outer ear including wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and buildup of fluid. Depending on the severity of issues going on in your ear, you may be able to understand some individuals, with louder voices, versus catching partial words from others talking in normal or lower tones.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Where conductive hearing loss can be induced by outer- and middle-ear issues, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can block sound signals from going to the brain. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can sound 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 suffering from high-frequency hearing loss.