You hear well. In fact, you hear what you want to hear. You just don’t catch all the words. Other than having slight difficulty in noisy settings or at a distance, you hear people. If only they would stop mumbling, everything would be fine. Right? Wrong!

In the adult population, there are more individuals with high-frequency hearing loss than any other type of loss. For many, particularly those who have worked around high levels of noise or served in the Armed Forces, high frequency hearing is the first to deteriorate. These people may have perfectly normal hearing for low-pitched sounds but have a considerable loss for high-pitched speech sounds such as t, f, s, k and th. They hear but the clarity isn’t there especially with women and children’s voices.

As one’s hearing loss slowly progresses, the eyes and brain compensate for the deficit. In fact, you only need to hear about 25% of speech sounds in order to understand speech. The other 75% of speech sounds can be inaudible, and you can still get the drift of the conversation. However, it takes an incredible amount of effort to follow conversation when certain speech sounds are missing.

With the help of the eyes, the brain pieces together the missing information, trying to make sense of the conversation. The human brain is an amazing thing. It actually consumes enough power to light a 20 watt light bulb, and even more when you are forced to work hard.

The person who “hears what he wants to hear” is probably using all his available brain power on listening. It is not likely that he will be able to exert that much effort very long. Most people check out after ten minutes. (By the way, this is true for people with normal hearing also! We all get resigned about missing parts of the conversation that we rationalize it’s not worth listening.) After straining for a while, you simply give up. It’s exhausting.

Believe it or not, this seemingly ‘minor’ type of loss is the most insidious of all hearing losses. As the hearing gradually deteriorates, your lifestyle and psychological well being may be affected.

The first step is to become aware of how hard you are working to follow conversation. If you can’t sit back and relax to follow conversation, you need to learn the truth about your hearing. It serves no purpose to put this off. Waiting to get help for your hearing may be detrimental to follow-up rehabilitation.

Today, most hearing and clarity problems can be helped. Properly fit hearing instruments make speech sounds more audible, reducing the power drain on your brain. With some brain power left over, you would be more likely to enjoy conversation. That extra power is there to enjoy others, not to decipher chopped up speech sounds.

No one wants to wear hearing aids. But hearing instruments can bring back certain speech sounds making it easier to hear in demanding listening situations. With the correct fitting, realistic expectations and good follow-up care along with counseling during the adjustment period, you can relax more and enjoy life!

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