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Why Can I Hear People Speaking, but Not Understand What They Are Saying? What Can I Do?


By Margaret Christiansen, Au.D.,  Audiology  Consultants

You are not alone in this complaint. It is one that we hear frequently and can often be explained by common changes that happen in our hearing, especially as we age. Speech falls across many different frequencies. In English, our vowel sounds are in the low frequencies and the majority of consonants are in the high frequencies. Consonants are the part of our language that carry meaning to our words. When the sound of those consonants is reduced, individuals are left feeling like speech isn’t crisp or distinct because they are not hearing all of the aspects of speech that provide meaning. When an individual starts to experience hearing loss in the higher pitches, it reduces clarity of the speech signal. This leads people to be aware someone is talking, but they are left straining to understand what is being said.

Everyone benefits from face-to-face communication and the additional information lip reading provides. When you have hearing loss, these good communication strategies become more and more important. If you are able to look at someone while talking, the information you gain from watching someone’s facial cues can augment what you are hearing. It also gives you the clearest speech signal, which gives you the best chance of hearing what being said.

If you are experiencing hearing difficulties, let your family and friends know that you are struggling and what they can do to help you hear better. They can help you in the following ways:

  • Say your name to get your attention prior to talking.
  • Come into the room where you are and look directly at you while speaking.
  • Eliminate background noise when possible (i.e. mute television)

If you are noticing changes in your hearing or struggling to hear things that are important to you, schedule an appointment with your audiologist for a hearing test.

If you have any questions about this article or your hearing health, please feel free to contact Audiology Consultants at 563-355-7712 or visit audiologyconsultants.com.

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