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Why do I have a hard time hearing softer sounds, but then loud sounds are too loud? – Harford County Aegis “Ask a Doctor”

Why do I have a hard time hearing softer sounds, but then loud sounds are too loud? – Harford County Aegis “Ask a Doctor”
September 24, 2015 Mindy Perry

Q: Why do I have a hard time hearing softer sounds, but then loud sounds are too loud?

A: A healthy ear can pick up the tiny sound vibrations from a passing mosquito and yet still comfortably handle the massive sound vibrations of a fire engine siren.  This is because the ear works in a “non-linear” way – softer sounds are made louder by the inner ear before passing the signal up to your brain.  However, most types of hearing loss affect the inner ear’s ability to do this properly.  And because of this, successfully treating hearing loss isn’t as simple as making all sounds louder.  Modern, non-linear hearing aids can be adjusted to handle this phenomenon, but they need to be programmed very precisely to allow soft sounds to be audible while keeping louder sounds comfortable.  Unfortunately, for various reasons, many hearing aid providers do not have the skills or equipment needed to deliver this degree of programming precision.  (Psst…we do.)