Imagine that you are not able to hear the sound/s/ in the word sat. Would you be able to distinguish the difference between the word sat, fat, bat and rat? If you were relying on hearing alone, it would be difficult to discriminate the /s/ sound. In order to understand what was said you would have to fill in the gaps by utilizing lip-reading cues, context and previous experiences.
Have you ever asked yourself why can I hear speech but not understand it? Difficulty understanding can be caused by the inability to hear the sounds of speech or a lack of clarity in the auditory system.
Hearing loss is evaluated in two ways. Testing is performed to determine the softest sound that you can hear as well as your ability to understand speech. The sensitivity to sound is assessed through your responses to beeps in the sound booth. The clarity of hearing is evaluated by having you respond to speech in quiet. After both have been evaluated, the audiologist will review the results with you and explain why you may be having trouble understanding words.
If your troubles are due to a loss of sensitivity to sound, a hearing device may be recommended to recover the sounds that you have been missing. A hearing device will increase the volume of the missing sounds with respect to the degree of hearing loss. Amplifying the sound will help improve understanding by allowing you to hear the missing pieces.
If your difficulties are due to reduced sensitivity and lack of clarity, a hearing device may be recommended. Hearing devices can recover the missing sounds but cannot clarify a distorted system. Realistic expectations regarding the limitations of the technology will be discussed. Coping strategies will need to be utilized to reduce background noise, improve communication and optimize listening. In some instances when discrimination has deteriorated substantially, benefit from hearing devices may not be possible and cochlear implants may be recommended.
If you have questions regarding your hearing difficulties and are interested in finding a solution to improve your quality of life and decrease listening effort, consider having your hearing evaluated.