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I can hear people talking, but I can’t understand what they’re saying

Time to Read: 5 minutes

Young businessman having a serious discussion with two female co-workers as they stand together discussing a hand written flip chartGetting hearing aids is the beginning of an important journey to maximise your hearing. At Value Hearing, we use world’s best practice to  help get your best possible hearing. 

Find out about some of the diagnostic tools we use to effectively measure your hearing loss and to recommend the best solution for you:

One of the comments we regularly receive from clients is, “I can hear people talking, but I can’t understand what they’re saying”.

There are three reasons why this might be.

High frequency hearing loss

Equalizer sound wave background theme. Colour illustration.-1High frequency loss makes it difficult to understand high pitched consonant sounds that helps you understand whether someone said show or throw. Those subtle sounds are important to hear in order to correctly understand what someone is saying.

Our brain is very clever and will use lip reading cues to determine the right letter but sometimes doesn’t always get it right.

Correcting with hearing aids is the best way to attain clarity to hear those subtle sounds.

Also see: Better Hearing by the Letter

The environment is too noisy

people crowd walking on busy street on daytimeThe second reason you might having trouble hearing what people say is because of a noisy environment. Even people with excellent hearing can struggle to hear someone when it is noisy. 

This is known as the Cocktail Party Effect where competing sounds make it difficult for you to follow a single conversation.

Hearing aids provide support in the form of directional microphones and computer processing that prioritises delivering speech to your ears. These directional microphones are a must-have feature in all modern hearing aids.

We also have a very informative article here that goes into detail about difficulties of hearing speech in noise and what you can do about it.

Issues with auditory processing

Young girl thinking with glowing brain illustration on grungy backgroundThirdly, your ears may be working just fine. The issue might be auditory processing. 

This means the sound is going into your ears just fine but your brain is having trouble interpreting what you hear into things you can understand.

People who don’t persevere with their auditory processing switch off during conversations. They may also switch off from life which results in depression, social isolation and increases the risk factors for dementia.

But that’s not all bad news

There is a lot you can do to train your brain to process speech and to help you comprehend when people are speaking.

The number one thing to do is wear your hearing aids every day and wear them all day.

If you don’t wear your hearing aids regularly, your brain doesn’t get the opportunity to process sounds and determine whether they represent a danger to you or not.

That means as soon as you put your hearing aids in, your brain is treating all sounds with equal priority. It’s even more demanding on your brain if you only wear your hearing aids when you go out and about. That results in you feeling overwhelmed and tired after only a couple of hours.

It is true you will hear annoying sounds when you first wear your hearing aids regularly but once your brain acclimatised to hearing noises, it will learn how to ignore them.

We have an excellent article here on how to get used to wearing hearing aids which will help you understand speech.

Another way to help improve listening comprehension following hearing loss is to ask your audiologist about auditory rehabilitation exercises. We’ve covered some of these in the article on getting used to hearing aids. 

We also recommend listening to audiobooks - especially recorded versions of books you already have in print. This way you can follow along with the words as you hear them spoken.