As part of the natural aging process of our human bodies and deterioration of our hearing due to many factors, including noise exposures, head traumas, and taking of ototoxic medications, we begin to loose hearing in various pitches (tones or frequencies). The hair cells inside our cochlea that capture those pitches have become limp and unresponsive, not allowing the stimulation of those sounds to reach our brains for translation.
The tones (hair cells) that humans normally loose first are the high frequency pitches – 1,000Hz and above, but most severally above 4,000Hz. The high frequencies of speech contain most of the consonant sounds, whereas the low frequencies contain the vowels.
Why Are Women & Children’s Voices Most Difficult to Understand?
Women and children’s voices are commonly more high pitched than men’s. So, often you may not struggle understanding men, but miss most of what the ladies and children in your life say. This often causes lots of problems, misunderstandings, contention and hurt feelings!
The Speech Banana
You can see below how the various speech sounds are shown at various pitches. This is also known as the “Speech Banana”:
As we loose hearing in the high pitches, sounds and speech become “dull” sounding, without crispness that comes from consonants sounds like “ssss”, “tttt”, “ssshhh”. Without the crisp tones of speech, conversations become much more difficult to understand.
Lost in Translation
Imagine hearing someone say: “_ amm _ wen_ _o the _ _ore wi_ _ _u_ an.”
Translation: “Tammy went to the store with Susan”
Without consonant sounds, words can be heard, but understanding what is said is nearly impossible — especially without “lip reading”.
When we can’t understand, our bodies naturally empower other senses to make up the difference, such as our eyes focusing more on lips moving (lip reading), facial expressions, and body movement and gestures.
Without high pitch hearing, it is common for you to say: “I heard what she said, but I didn’t understand”.
The Good News
The good news is that with Hearing Central’s leading hearing aid technology, we are able to add amplification is just the pitches that you have lost. That way, sounds will become crisp again. Speech will be more understandable. Friends will enjoy visiting with you again. And family, especially the ladies in your life, will not have to raise their voices to help you hear them.
Stop dismissing your high frequency hearing loss, saying that everyone around you is mumbling or speaking too softly. The longer you put off better hearing and proper stimulation of your brain, the more difficult it becomes to improve your hearing and understanding.