Danny W. Gnewikow, PhD, FAAA
Audiologist, CCC
Founder & Chief Audiologist


Danville, VA
(434) 799-6288

Lynchburg, VA
(434) 528-4245

Educational Videos & Blog

Danny Gnewikow

Walking Through the Early Stages of Hearing Loss: You're Not Talking About Me...Are You? Part III

Why Do So Many People Mumble? (Patients with Sensorineural hearing loss often do not perceive sounds as being “soft”, but perceive speech as being “unclear”.)

A mild loss can cause some difficulty in understanding speech, because of the damage to the higher pathways leading to the auditory centers in the brain. This is particularly true of losses affecting the high frequencies. The sense that everyone seems to be mumbling occurs because important consonant sounds such as “s”, “f”, “th”, “t”, and “k” are high frequency sounds and have weak intensities. An individual would have difficulty differentiating between words such as “sin” versus “thin” or “sick” versus “tick”. Next, add the inevitable noise present in most listening situations, and these high frequency consonant sounds are often masked or distorted. Business meetings, theaters, and restaurants present difficult listening situations for individuals with mild hearing losses. They need the television volume turned up, but it is often too loud for others in the room. On the other hand, very loud sounds may cause them unusual discomfort. This latter phenomenon is called “recruitment”.

Hearing Aids

Very often the individual with a mild hearing loss is the last person to recognize that they need a hearing aid. However, their family will report: “He asks me to repeat things. It’s driving me crazy.” “I can’t enjoy TV because she keeps interrupting to ask what they said.” “According to him, everybody has a speech problem—they just talk with marbles in their mouth.”

Yes. No. Maybe So….

Will a hearing aid help? The answer is: “Probably yes”. They do not solve every listening difficulty, BUT:

They do make soft sounds louder. They do help a person to hear consonants. They do reduce the strain of listening. They do help minimize constant repetition. They do help to reduce unwanted background noise.

To Determine Whether It Is Time For You To Try A Hearing Aid, Consider The Following:

Listening environment:

A person with a mild hearing loss who is employed, active in the community, or is a member of a large family may find a hearing aid essential for adequate communication.

Variation in voices of family, friends, co-workers:

Whether a person with a mild hearing loss can function without a hearing aid depends on whether family, friends, and associates talk <LIKE THIS> or >like this<.

Personal characteristics:

Some people have a need to be included in what’s going on around them. Others seem content to remain quietly on the sidelines. No matter how much a spouse or child might like for the family member with a mild hearing loss to get a hearing aid, it is the attitude of the person with the hearing loss that is the determining factor.

Remember: Communication is the most important part of being human. 

Adapted by Dr. Gnewikow from: Brewer, D.M., Yaffe-Oziel S., Walton, R.T. (1993) Walking through the early stages of hearing loss. SHHH Journal. November/December 7.10


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