Unpredictable Hearing: Why Can You Hear Some People but not Others?
Do you struggle to hear certain sounds or people in particular environments? Maybe your children seem to mumble excessively, you cannot understand people over the phone, or you cannot figure out what a waitress is trying to ask you.
People often joke about having selective hearing and only hearing when and what they want to hear. However, only hearing certain people and sounds is more than a choice of judgement or a joke and can be a sign of hearing loss.
As hearing care specialists, we are constantly approached by patients with this problem, where they can hear some people but not others. Fortunately, this area of research has been greatly developed over the years, so let’s look at why this happens, what it has to do with hearing loss and how you can manage it.
What Causes this Issue?
If your hearing health is optimal, it is highly unlikely you will experience situations where you can hear some people but not others without a clear external reason. Therefore, it is safe to say that this issue is a telltale sign of hearing loss.
Hearing loss affects every person differently due to individual factors and the nature and type of hearing loss. Some of the most common types of hearing loss include noise-induced hearing loss and age-related presbycusis:
- Noise-related hearing loss is caused by excessive and prolonged noise exposure, and;
- Age-related presbycusis results from the effects of ageing.
Despite the type or cause, both of these hearing loss types can affect high frequencies, which skew your ability to hear certain sounds. This is known as high-frequency hearing loss. In this scenario, low pitched sounds are generally easier to hear, and high pitched sounds (above 1000 Hz) are often more difficult, which are often amplified to hear them.
This is why you may struggle to hear women’s and children’s voices more than others, as they tend to be a high frequency in tone. In addition, the struggle to hear these sounds is generally exacerbated by noisy environments and is a reason why people with hearing loss feel as though they mumble.
Understandably, this can be extremely frustrating for you and the people you are trying to communicate with. Although you know you aren’t just being ‘selective’ with your hearing, it is not always easy to communicate that with the person you are attempting to talk and listen to.
If these struggles sound familiar, you may also experience other symptoms of high-frequency hearing loss:
- You are still able to hear lower frequency noises, typically from trucks, thunder, and rustling leaves. However, sometimes these sounds mask conversations.
- You find it difficult to communicate with people with a lot of background noise, potentially causing you to avoid socialising and being in public spaces.
- You can easily understand low pitch vowel sounds but struggle with consonants like S, Th, Sh, V, and P more high pitched.
Trying to assist people with high-pitched hearing loss can be difficult at times. Although it often relates to our positioning when we speak, this cannot always be easily altered. Specifically, the typical modern home is not always designed where acoustics assist with noise reduction. Rather, they are more open-plan where noise interference from ambient noise can mask speech and make conversations difficult, whether or not you even struggle from hearing loss.
How to Improve Communication with High-Frequency Hearing Loss?
While modern architecture isn’t always on our side when it comes to helping us hear, there are ways to improve your communication with the people around you.
Firstly, and simply, face people when you are talking to them. Eye contact can go a long way in ensuring you can both hear one another. Not only does it make you more attentive, but it will mean that you are vocally projecting towards one another, enhancing your hearing ability. Another obvious but often overlooked step is not talking to someone from another room. Not only can this be frustrating, but just because you can hear someone doesn’t mean they can hear you.
As someone struggling with high-frequency hearing loss, some simple steps to implement into your communication to help you hear include:
- Not walking away when talking to someone,
- Minimise external noise when having conversations by changing your positioning around the sound,
- If you know you need to have an important conversation, consider finding a quieter environment,
- Pay attention to facial cues and lighting to assist your understanding of the conversation,
- Try and remain eye contact with the person you are talking to, and;
- Ensure you have the attention of the person you are communicating with before you speak.
What to do Next?
If some of these symptoms and experiences sound familiar, it is never too late to take hold of your hearing health. Start by contacting your local hearing specialist, discussing your symptoms, and asking any hearing related questions you may have. You can also book a comprehensive hearing assessment to get straight to the bottom of what is causing your hearing concerns and how you can manage them quickly.
Book an appointment with Attune
Whether you have been diagnosed with hearing loss already or suspect you may be dealing with hearing loss; it is always important to know for sure. There are countless options to help you manage your hearing problems, hear better, and communicate more efficiently, but first, you need to know what hearing loss you are dealing with.
With over 50 audiology clinics Australia-wide, Attune Hearing offers a range of medical services to help you put your health and wellbeing first. Find your local Attune clinic today and book a diagnostic hearing test.
Modern hearing technology has meant that there is an extensive range of hearing aids now on the market that can be adapted to your needs. Certain hearing aids can amplify high-pitched sounds without affecting how you hear low-pitched sounds, providing the perfect solution for high-frequency hearing loss. Ultimately, these devices are made to help you communicate better with less frustration and stress and get back to normal life.