Woman can't hear the television while watching with friends.

If you can hear voices and make out some words but not others, or you can’t distinguish between someone’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, overall health, and the genetic makeup of your ear all play a role in your ability to process sound. If you have the aggravating experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not processing or understanding what that person is saying you might be experiencing one or more of the following types of hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

You could be suffering from conductive hearing loss if you have to continuously swallow and tug on your ears while saying with increasing irritation “There’s something in my ear”. The ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain is diminished by issues to the outer and middle ear like wax buildup, ear infections, eardrum damage, and fluid buildup. You may still be able to hear some people with louder voices while only partially hearing people with lower voices depending on the severity of your hearing loss.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Where conductive hearing loss can be brought about by outer- and middle-ear problems, Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear. Damage to the inner ear’s hair-like cells or the auditory nerve itself can stop sound signals to the brain. Voices might sound slurred or muddy to you, and sounds can come across as either too low or too high. You’re experiencing high frequency hearing loss, if you have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices or can’t differentiate voices from the background noise.

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