Woman can't hear the television while watching with friends.

If you can hear voices and understand some words but not others, or you can’t differentiate between someone’s voice and surrounding noise, your hearing problem may be in your ear’s ability to conduct sound or in your brain’s capability of processing signals, or both.

Your ability to process sound is governed by several variables like overall health, age, brain function, and genetics. If you have the aggravating experience being able to hear a person’s voice but not being able to process or understand what that person is saying you might be dealing with one or more of the following kinds of hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

When we yank on our ears, repeatedly swallow, and say again and again to ourselves with increasing annoyance, “There’s something in my ear,” we may be experiencing conductive hearing loss. Problems with the middle and outer ear such as fluid in the ear, a buildup of wax, ear infections, or eardrum damage all reduce the ear’s ability to conduct sound to the brain. Depending on the severity of problems going on in your ear, you could be able to make out some people, with louder voices, versus hearing partial words from others speaking in normal or lower tones.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Unlike conductive hearing loss, which impacts the middle and outer ear, Sensorineural hearing loss impacts the inner ear. Sounds to the brain can be stopped if the auditory nerve or the hair like nerves are injured. Sounds can seem too soft or loud and voices can sound too muddy. If you cannot differentiate voices from background noise or have a hard time hearing women and children’s voices particularly, then you may be suffering from high-frequency hearing loss.

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