How Hearing Helps You Understand Speech

Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.Blog-post, Hearing Aid Technology, Hearing Aids

How Hearing Helps You Understand Speech
Dr. Maria Wynens, Au.D.
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How Hearing Helps You Understand Speech

One of the very first things we often notice about changes in our hearing is our ability to understand speech. Many don’t recognize changes in their ability to hear music or other ambient sounds, but are quick to notice that conversations with friends and loved ones are more difficult.

Naturally, understanding speech and conversation is one of the most important reasons to invest in a hearing aid. Our relationships improve, we become less tired during social situations and we can enjoy lengthy conversations on our phones with loved ones far away. Though hearing aids help with our ability to carry on conversations and understand speech, many aren’t sure why. How do hearing aids help with speech recognition?

This comes down to the frequencies that make speech intelligible – and the frequencies that most hearing loss sufferers lose the ability to perceive first. If you’re a hearing aid wearer or someone considering a hearing test for your hearing loss, this is what you should know about speech, conversations and hearing aids.



Frequencies in Speech

When someone speaks, there are many different frequencies that we perceive. This combination of frequencies make up the letters and sound combinations that we use in words and sentences. Lower frequencies create the sounds in certain letters like G or B. However, higher frequencies create sounds like P and T.

When we begin to lose our hearing, we lose our ability to perceive these higher frequencies. So while hearing loss might not affect our ability to hear and understand the word “bad”, it will often make it very difficult to understand the word “pat”.

In speech, its this combination of higher and lower frequency sounds that allow us to differentiate between words and phrases. When we lose the ability to hear high frequencies, the sounds that tell us the difference between the word “bad” and “pat” are lost, too. That means words become muddy, and we have to concentrate even harder to understand what is being said to us.

That’s where a hearing aid comes in. Hearing aids amplify these high frequency sounds so that we can use these sounds to understand words more clearly. Suddenly we are less likely to ask speakers to repeat themselves or find ourselves exhausted after a lengthy conversation.


Background Noise and Speech Perception

Sometimes even with hearing loss, someone might be able to understand speech in quiet environments. That’s because though our ability to perceive certain frequencies is diminished, we can still pick up on enough to piece together the words and phrases used by a speaker.

However, in noisy environments like restaurants or parties, there are other obtrusive sounds that drown out those frequencies we use to understand speech. Suddenly, we must concentrate even harder to  understand speech, and sometimes find that we must watch a speaker’s mouth to find out what they are saying.

Beyond just amplifying high frequency sounds, hearing aids also have the ability to amplify sounds coming from a particular direction. This is done using something called a directional microphone, and depending on the aid this can be adjusted automatically or manually. Some aids even have accessories that allow us to point a microphone at a speaker, making it even easier to hear speech.


Hearing aids are transformational when it comes to our relationships – and that’s mostly because of their ability to improve our conversations and connections with loved ones. If you find that speech is becoming more and more difficult to understand, it might be time for a hearing test. The right hearing aid could be your ticket to richer, more fulfilling relationships.


Find the right hearing solution today! Get started by contacting us to schedule an appointment.

Atlanta Hearing Doctor
(404) 252-7528
5885 Glenridge Dr #155
Atlanta, GA 30328