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Hearing Loss and Understanding Speech PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Written by Keith Lindow   
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 01:10

Hearing Loss & Understanding Speech

Speech (soft to loud) is most important sound that we hear everyday. Speech is made up of vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and consonants (for example s, t, n, d, f, ch) Vowel sounds are lower in pitch and louder in volume. Consonant sounds are higher in pitch and softer in volume (expecially female voices).  All types of hearing loss affect an individuals ability to hear and understand conversational sounds. Hearing loss often initially affects those higher pitched consonant sounds. These sounds (s, f, v, sh, th, ch) play a key role in disinguishing words and understanding speech clearly.  Many individuals with hearing loss will report: "I hear people talking but I don't understand what is being said."

Warning signs of hearing loss:

If you, family members, friends, or loved ones have experienced any of the following, please have your hearing tested by a hearing healthcare professional:
  • Can hear but not understand
  • Have difficuly hearing in restaurants and/or places of worship
  • Frequently ask people to repeat themeselves
  • Look at people's faces to assist in understandin conversation
  • Turn up the volume of the TV and/or Radio
  • Feel that everyone mumbles or doesn't speak clearly

Hearing but Still Not Understanding.

These hearing sensitivity graphs for sensorineural (e.g. Age-related) impairment illustrate the importance of consonants for the understanding of speech. The first two graphs make this clear. Frequency (low to high) is show horizontally, and loudness (soft to loud) is shown vertically.

In the graph below, note the whole area is blue indicating hearing loss has not affected the patient's ability to hear sounds.

In the graph below, the individual with this type of hearing loss can still hear the sounds highlighted in light and dark blue but cannot hear the sounds highlighted in grey.

In the graph below, the red area indicates the high frequency sounds that have been made louder so that the person with this hearing loss can hear them.
Consonants play a very important role in understanding of speech. A person suggering from sensorineural (e.g. age-related) hearing loss often hears only a jumble of sounds.

Normal Sentence:
Consonants are more Important than vowels.
Consonants Only:
Cnsnnts r mr mprtnt thn vwls.
Vowels Only:
ooa ae oe ioa a oe.
This demostrates the importance of the high frequencies
(most consonants) for the understanding of speech. The
same sentence appears three times. The normal sent-
ence shows understanding with normal hearing. The
same sentence spoken with only its consonants (high
frequencies) is more readily understood than the vowel-
only sentence where the high frequencies or most
consonants are missing.

Deteriorating hearing ability has permanent consequences, both for the person affected and for others. He or she has to make a great effort to understand what is being said.

THe person talking has to compensate by speaking louder and more slowly. Poor hearing means constantly having to "fit" a word puzzle together, beacuase all he or she can hear are fragments. Individuals with hearing loss find this fatiguing and may bluff that they understand what is being said.



Last Updated on Monday, 04 October 2010 22:28